Dove hunting good at most public hunting areas; crowds are down
By JIM MATTHEWS
Dove hunting was fair to good at most public hunting areas across Southern California, and the mid-week opener of Thursday (Sept. 1) kept the crowds down. Most hunters also reported seeing fewer mourning doves than last season, but whitewing dove numbers continue to remain high.
Leon Lesicka, with Desert Wildlife Unlimited in the Imperial Valley and the man behind the public dove fields in the area for the past 15 years, said both hunter numbers and numbers of dove were down this year.
“I can’t figure out why there weren’t more dove overall,” said Lesicka. “The weather was perfect – we didn’t have any bad storms – and the fields were in good shape, but we just didn’t have as many birds. Oh, there was still pretty good shooting, and everyone had a good time, but I thought we should have more birds.”
Dennis Richards of San Diego said he shot his 15-bird limit in 1 1/2 hours hunting between Calipatria and Niland and that he also had four Eurasian doves (which have no limit). He called it “one of the better Imperial Valley openers.” But Richards has scouted the areas for 1 1/2 days prior to the opener.
Bill Hinz of Brea, hunting with guide Mendel Woodland on private land in the Imperial Valley, called it the “best opening I’ve had in at least five years.”
In the Blythe region, the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve’s public wheat and milo field off 2nd Avenue (photo) shot very well opening morning with a lot of hunters shooting quick limits, mostly of whitewings, and then picking away on mourning doves. The area was very crowded opening morning. By Saturday morning, the crowds had thinned way down, but the number of doves were also pretty thin.
On the Arizona side of the river in the Blythe region, the Island Unit of the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge was the hot spot, with many of not most hunters shooting limits, and the preponderance of birds in the bag were whitewings. The wheat field prepared by the Arizona Game and Fish Department was also good, but most of the doves in this spot were mourning doves. Both of these spots (especially the Island Unit) were crowded, but not as bad on the California side.
Dean Magistrale of Lakewood said the California side of the river in the Palo Verde area was “slow” but managed to “peck out a limit -- but it took quite a while to do.”
At the San Jacinto Wildlife Area adjacent to Lake Perris, the hunting was a little better than last season with nearly two birds per hunter opening morning, according to Tom Trakes with the Department of Fish and Wildlife at the area. He said he personally checked in four limits opening morning.
“We ended up shooting pretty well,” said Trakes. “Even for the guys who didn’t get a lot of birds, they were all very positive. There were a lot of dove moving around and they had a pretty good time.”
Trakes also noted that one whitewing dove was taken at the wildlife area (a rarity), and that a number of Eurasian doves were killed.
The Camp Cady Wildlife Area east of Barstow along the Mojave River had light crowds and very good hunting both morning and evening of opening day and bird numbers were high enough and crowds light enough that the shooting remained pretty good right through Saturday.
Ed Curry of La Habra ended up his day at Camp Cady with seven doves, but blamed poor shooting for not getting more.
“I should be satisfied with the seven doves I bag, but of course I’m kicking myself over the ones I didn’t get,” said Curry.
That seems to be a theme at Cady. John Wymore of Apple Valley, said “we saw pretty good numbers, and if I was a better shot I could have limited out.”
The first half of dove season continues through September 15. The second half of the season runs from Nov. 12 through Dec. 26.
DOVE HUNTING TIDBIT: The dove hunting season opener on Sept. 1 is the largest participatory sporting event in the United States. No other event has as many participants at the same time doing the same thing. The sound of firing shotguns moves across the country like rolling thunder as the half-hour-before sunrise shooting time moved across the nation with the sun. Nationwide, over 800,000 hunters participate in this long tradition each year.
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.]