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Information from AG&FD site
Repeated for "news reporting purposes"

Two mourning doves in a treeDove hunting in Arizona 
By Mike Rabe, migratory birds program supervisor, Arizona Game and Fish Department

Arizona is one of the best places to hunt doves anywhere. We have two seasons here: an early season from Sept. 1–15, and a later season in late fall and early winter that varies a little in the opening and closing dates. There are also two zones with slightly different regulations: a north zone and a south zone. This year the late season opens Nov. 18 and closes Jan. 1 in both zones. In the early season, shooting is restricted to half an hour before sunrise to noon in the southern zone of the state. There is no half-day restriction in the north zone. Hunting takes place all day (half an hour before sunrise to sunset) in the late season statewide. Bag limits are 10 dove per day. Up to six of those can be white-winged doves. Complete information about Arizona’s rules for dove hunting are found in the 2005-2006 dove and band-tailed pigeon regulations.

There are five species of doves in Arizona. Hunters have to be able to identify them all. The five species are mourning doves, white-winged doves, ground doves, Inca doves, and Eurasian collared doves. Turtle doves are also occasionally found in Arizona when they escape captivity. Mourning doves are by far the most common doves, dominating the skies in most areas. White-wings can be plentiful in the early season in desert regions.

All doves are classified as migratory birds. White-winged doves migrate into Arizona from Mexico in May and typically move south out of Arizona in early September, so white-wings are only available to the hunter for the early season hunt (Sept. 1–15). Many mourning doves also migrate through Arizona; some winter in Mexico and migrate through Arizona to breed in northern states. Some migrate from Mexico to breed in Arizona, and some live in Arizona year-round. White-wings are larger than mourning doves, with a distinct white wing-bar. Inca doves and ground doves are much smaller than either mourning or white-wings and are protected. In recent years, Arizonans have encountered increasing numbers of Eurasian collared doves. These exotics, introduced from Asia, are increasing in numbers. They are about the size of a white-winged dove, steely gray in color, with a black collar around the top of the neck. Currently, you can hunt Eurasian collared doves during the dove season with no bag limit.

Mourning doves are habitat generalists. They nest just about anywhere, including urban, agricultural, and desert areas. They migrate and breed as far north as central Canada. Mourning doves are rather lackadaisical about nest construction, usually making a loose nest of sticks where the female lays two eggs. Males and females share incubation duties. In Arizona, mourning doves may begin nesting as early as February and continue into September. Since it takes a little over a month to produce a pair of young doves (three to seven days for courtship and nest building, 15 days to incubate the eggs, and 10–15 days to brood the hatched young), a pair of doves can produce five broods in a good year (allowing for a little rest between broods).

White-winged doves are creatures of the southwest deserts. White-winged doves are not as prolific as mourning doves and not nearly as widespread. In a good year, they can pull off two broods of two doves each, but one brood of two is more common. Most white-winged doves migrate into Arizona to breed only. After breeding, they wing their way south, back to Mexico. A small number remain in Arizona all winter long in urban areas, visiting bird feeders and nesting in any tree that provides some cover from the sun. In the open desert, white-wings concentrate on the saguaro bloom and nest in mesquite or Palo Verde trees along washes.

I look forward to opening day of dove season the way some people look forward to meeting a friend they haven’t seen for a year. My first hunting experience was a dove hunt with my father when I was 14. I killed several doves that day, but the doves I killed (and ate that night) aren’t what I remember most. What I remember best is my dad standing 30 yards away to my right as both of us waited by the canal bank near Maricopa and watched the doves come toward us in the dawn.

Dove hunting is the perfect first hunting experience for a youngster. A typical dove hunt involves finding a spot where doves are flying, standing in one place, and shooting as the doves pass by or overhead. This is perfect for a young hunter. They can concentrate on where the barrel of the gun is pointing, make sure the safety is on, and practice turning the safety off as they swing the gun with the target. Dove hunting is wingshooting in its purest form. Watch the dove, bring up the gun, click off the safety, shoot, and follow through.

The best way to have a successful dove hunt is to locate concentrations of doves before opening day. Doves follow a predictable routine. In the evening, they fly to roosts. Most roost in thickets of vegetation, either trees along washes or (in agricultural areas), windbreaks. At dawn, doves typically fly to food and water, in that order.

To breast a dove, pinch the skin on top of the breast and make a small cut or tear in the skin. Then peel the skin with the feathers away from the breast. Lift the breast away from the bird by putting your thumb underneath the breast bone. Cooking shears can make a nice neat job of this, although they are not really necessary. As with all game meat, the earlier you clean the bird, and the sooner you can get it cooled, the better it will taste. Experienced hunters bring a cooler with ice with them on the hunt to put cleaned birds in. Remember that regulations stipulate that you have to leave one fully feathered wing attached until you get the birds home.


Note: The Arizona Game and Fish Department prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, disability in its programs and activities. If anyone believes they have been discriminated against in any Game and Fish program or activity, including its employment practices, the individual may file a complaint alleging discrimination directly with the Game and Fish Deputy Director, 2221 W. Greenway Rd., Phx., AZ 85023, (602) 942-3000 or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4040 N. Fairfax Dr., Ste. 130, Arlington, VA 22203. If you require this document in an alternative format, please contact the Game and Fish Deputy Director as listed above or by calling TTY at 1-800 367-8939