Arizona’s dove hunters know what a huge part agriculture plays in their hunting success.

No matter the crop — wheat, sorghum, millet, milo, sunflowers – grain fields are like magnets for flight after flight of mourning and the larger white-winged doves, providing some of the best wing-shooting action in the nation.

“Arizona consistently reports the highest number of birds harvested per hunter (18.1 in 2016) than any other state in the West (11.1),” said Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Some years, Arizona turns in the highest number in the country.

“We saw an increase in 2016 in the mourning dove population — 45.7 million, up from 36.3 million in 2015 — in the Western Management Unit, which consists of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. We expect numbers to remain high for opening day in 2017.”

Once again, the greatest number of doves – and dove hunters — will be concentrated in the state’s agricultural areas when the season begins Friday. O’Dell said he expects even more white-winged doves than usual in these areas, based on this year’s weather patterns in some places that inhibited the production of saguaro cactus fruit – a popular food source for white-winged doves.

For a change of pace, as well as a little more elbow room, O’Dell offers this tip:

Find a desert hotspot.

“Substantial rains that covered Arizona this year allowed for mourning doves to spread out across the desert in search of food and nesting sites in trees near previously dry livestock waters,” O’Dell said. “It would be worth doing some scouting to find a dove hotspot this year.”

The department reminds dove hunters to review the “2017-2018 Arizona Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon Regulations,” which are posted online.

The regulations also are available in a new format that hunters will find particularly handy in the field. The color brochure is easier to read and features important hunting information, such as season dates, daily bag and possession limits, and legal requirements, at a glance. The printed version is available at all department offices and more than 200 license dealers statewide.

A youth combination hunt/fish license is only $5 and includes a migratory bird stamp. Hunters 18 and older who want to hunt doves and band-tailed pigeons (as well as ducks, geese, coots, snipe and common moorhens) must possess a valid Arizona hunting license, as well as a migratory bird stamp for the 2017-18 season. Both can be purchased online.


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