Dove hunting opener best in years
By JIM MATTHEWS
The dove season hunting opener on Sept. 1 was the best it has been in many years, according to reports from the most popular hunting areas across Southern California, especially in the Imperial Valley and the Blythe regions.
“I think it was exceptional,” said Leon Lessica, the head of Desert Wildlife Unlimited, a volunteer group that plants and maintains public hunting fields in the Imperial Valley. “This was the most doves I’ve seen for the opener in a very long time.”
Wayne Pinkerton at B&B Bait in Blythe said he’d never seen the volume of doves he was seeing this year, and hunters have been getting into good hunting the first four consecutive days so far. Pinkerton said the hunting usually slows down after the opener, but he was still seeing hunters at his cleaning station at his store with limits of birds on Thursday and Friday.
Lessica said he had reserved two of the Imperial Valley public fields for Wounded Warriors the first half of opening day and that they “shot continuously” from first shooting light until about 9 a.m. By then, most had limits or sore shoulders (or both) and were ready to get out of the heat.
The DWU public wheat fields south of the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area shot the best opening day, while the fields on the Wister Unit were not as good.
Durwood Hollis of Rancho Cucamonga said he hunted a harvested wheat field across from Wister and managed to get a single bird, noting that bird numbers were scanty in that area. In checking with other hunters on both sides of Highway 111 around the headquarters he said most only had one to three birds each.
The Blythe-Palo Verde-Cibola region was excellent. The Palo Verde Ecological Reserve wheat fields were holding lots of mourning and whitewing doves and shot well opening day, and many hunters reported limits throughout the first week. Many hunters also reported far more whitewings in the area than most openers, and many sportsmen had 10-bird whitewing limits as part of the 15-bird total limit.
Jack Ingram of Chino and his hunting partner Mike Nieman of Ontario each had limits of 15 doves opening day and the second day of the season. Ingram said Nieman had 10 whitewings and five mourning doves to make his limit opening day.
“Yeah, he was happy,” said Ingram. “It’s not easy getting a smile out of his tough old hide. Good shooting will do that.”
Dean Magistrale of Lakewood said the hunting was “wide open by the Cibola [National] Wildlife Refuge with hunters on both sides of the river smiling. I shot a limit with my trusted .410.”
At another popular public hunting areas, the shooting was world’s better than last year at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area in western Riverside County. Tom Trakes, the Department of Fish and Wildlife supervisor at the area, said 97 hunters filled out report cards for opening day and that 168 doves were taken, including at least two whitewings (which is almost unheard of). The 1.68 birds per hunter average is much better than last year’s 1/4-bird per hunter average.
“Some groups had really good hunting, and I checked a couple of limits,” said Trakes. “There was not too much negative response and most guys saw a lot birds.”
Trakes said probably the best hunting was in the mowed sunflower fields north of Bridge Street on the wildlife area.
Reports from the Yuma region were also excellent, and some hunters even had good shooting at desert locations in the Mojave Desert, both east and west. Rashawn Gordon of Searchlight hunted private land in Nevada for his opening day limit. “I managed to get a limit the next day on the Mojave Preserve, but it took two trips. I got five in the morning and 10 that evening.”
The Camp Cady Wildlife Area on the Mojave River east of Barstow and south of Interstate 15 was much better than recent years thanks to planted fields that attracted birds.
Because of the Tuesday opener, crowds were much lighter than normal for openers on the weekend, and many hunters are in the field this opening weekend. The first half of the season runs through Sept. 15. The second dove season will run from Nov. 14 through Dec. 28