|Bird hunters who have been out and about the past few weeks and looking skyward have most likely seen a vast improvement in the number of mourning dove winging across the sky in many areas of Southern California, along with a pretty good indicator that Eurasian collared dove numbers are continuing to be on the rise. Reports from Imperial Valley are very encouraging with more white winged dove showing up daily on refuges and fallow farm land, and if those pesky thunderstorms keep away from established flyways between Parker, Arizona and Yuma come opening morning Saturday, Sept. 1 there are going to lots of dove bagged by scatter gunners.
Those monsoonal rains that fell a week ago were intense enough to create puddles in the Imperial Valley and soak up a lot of dry desert sand from Yuma on up into the high desert country around Red Mountain.
"There was about a 2.5-inch downpour in an hour just to the east of Niland and many fallow crop fields were affected by flooding that created creeks through fields. A lot of dry feed got washed away and its going to take a lot of drying out to make some of these popular dove hunting fields productive for hunters come opening day," was the report passed on by Hollis Daker of Niland.
Other areas in Imperial Valley were hammered by rain, and according to Frank Theodoropoulos of Tustin, there was nearly a much rain between Niland and Brawley as there was a few openers back when that tropical storm moved up from Mexico and made for very wet hunting conditions at some of the public farm fields and washed out access roads.
For hunters looking ahead to shooting at Wister the following information was passed on to Western Outdoor News by Rick Francis, a technician with the Department of Fish and Game Wister Unit.
"The camp ground will be open to first come first served on Davis Road. Also no camp fires will be allowed except in containers or BBQ's for those planning on spending a couple days hunting over the holiday opener. As to what Wister will offer up in the way of dove hunting it should be excellent as unit 312 has wheat and so does hunt unit W-11b. Unit U-10-4 has a great crop and the food plots out at Finney/Rammer have massive wheat crops and are loaded (at this time) with all three species of dove. Please remind Western Outdoor News readers that if you hunt Wister you must check in at the information center located on Davis Road and for Finney/Rammer you must check in at one of the Kiosk's in the areas you are hunting," said Francis.
Francis also provided an update to WON about the Arizona Game and Fish public dove field located off Baseline Road next to the rural city of Cibola. "Cibola is still looking good for dove with that wheat field holding lots of white winged and mourning dove. The area really doesn't need much more in the way of thunder shower activity prior to opening weekend due to the fact that with more rain in the valley wheat laying on the ground could actually germinate and this could affect the number birds being attracted to that prime field."
Other areas in Southern California that are likely to offer up good dove shoots include: public land throughout San Diego County, the high desert regions of the Lucerne Valley, to some extent Mecca, the Bakersfield area, Parkfield, huntable fields in San Luis Obispo county and up into the central valley where there are good numbers of mourning dove being seen winging across many roads near farms, fallow fields, orchards and anywhere near water.
Western Outdoor News just flew over a long stretch of Southern California on a commercial flight that flew directly over Westmorland and across the Cleveland National Forest with a landing at the new terminal in Orange County on Air Tran after spending a couple days fishing for roosters, dorado and striped marlin out of Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort. The approach was low enough to show a definite lack of water in this region with lake levels down, nothing in the way of many stock tanks, nor running creeks and all the hillsides and valley floors were brown. One would have to believe that in order to find a good hunting spot for dove come Sept. 1 that an area be pre-scouted to include a nearby watering hole.
Now would be a great time to start your pre-check list for dove opener that's just about 30 days away. Randomly this hunting editor is going to mention a few hunting accessories and ammo that will be in my arsenal for an opening morning hunt at the Cibola Sportsman's Club South Ranch, followed by a quick run down into Imperial Valley for a day ending Eurasian collared dove hunt near Brawley, an overnight in the area and continued white winged (hopefully), mourning and Eurasian dove hunting on Sunday morning before heading back to file a dove opener story for WON.
Last opener there wasn't much of a problem with mosquitoes at the South Ranch, but the year prior they were pesky and shooting by a water hole didn't improve the odds of a bug-free shoot in the morning. Finally, I have that problem resolved with the addition of a ThermoaCELL mosquito repellent kit that worked great while on a spring turkey hunt in the swamps of Mississippi. This unit is ideally suited for dove hunters shooting around a stock tank, river canal or farm pond as it repels mosquitoes within a diameter of 15 feet and is effective for up to 4-hours on one pre-treated mat. When moving around it can take a few minutes for the unit to become really preventative so be patient when moving from one hot spot to another. Another insect device that is handy is the OFF Clip-On, which is a fan circulated repellent. According to the Johnson Family Co. this unit works for up to 12 hours offering head to toe protection, is refillable and clips on nicely to a belt, vest or game bag.
Some hunters have preferences when it comes to picking out ammo for dove opener, while others will just head to the sporting goods store or gun shop that has the best price on #8 shot field loads. This hunting editor takes the selection process at little farther by choosing Federal Premium Sporting Clays ammo in size # 8.5 shot and backing the first round up with a Federal Upland Load of copper plated # 7.5 shot for better long range shooting and more knock down power when pulling across the beak of a high flying white winged dove or Eurasian Collard dove.
One new item that is ideally suited for dove hunters who stick close to a vehicle is the MAGnet Gun Caddy which is a portable magnetic gun rack that attaches to the fender or trunk of a rig. This dandy unit is small, grips the barrel(s) of a shot gun within cushioned foam and won't scratch the paint. For more information log on their web site at magnetguncaddy.com.
Dove hunters need a good camo seat when waiting out flights of dove. I honestly don't like the tri-pod version as it can be tippy so give me a solid seat with a strap and storage compartment for all spent shells. There are going to be some retailers with dove specials in WON coming out soon so you don't want to miss checking out ads for Turner's Outdoorsman, Big 5, Jimmy's Outdoors, Fowler Gun Room & The Stockade, Pacific Sporting Arms, the Grant Boys, Field Time Sports and Guns, Sprague's Sports Inc. in Yuma along with other gun shops and hunting accessories retail stores.
There are a number of choices for hunts on private ranches available to Western Outdoor News readers. The Cibola Sportsman's Club has openings for its South Ranch dove hunt, Bitterwater Outfitters, Oakstone Outfitters and Miller Bros Expeditions are offering hog/dove combo hunts, Multiple Use Managers (MUM) is hunting on two ranches in western Tehama County and guides at Mike Berry Guide Service have located some fine dove fields along the western slope of the High Sierra. The Tejon Ranch will likely not be open to dove hunting come Sept. 1 as they are still working on a new hunt program that will probably unveil in the fall.
It would be a good idea and there is still time to head out to a local trap range and shoot a few boxes of ammo at clay targets. A trip to Raahauge's Shooting Enterprises, Triple B's Sporting Clays, Prado Olympic Shooting Park or Oaktree Gun Club should also improve on the number of dove bagged opening morning.
For those planning on driving down to the Imperial Valley on Friday night you might want to make reservations to head over to the Stockmen's Club in downtown Brawley to attend the annual Imperial Valley Dove Dinner. The event is a California Wildlife fund raiser and kicks off on that Friday (8/31) at 5:30 p.m. for cocktails with an "All you can eat" taco bar/Mexican fiesta starting at 7:30 p.m. A free dinner ticket is being offered for Early Bird reservations made by Aug. 15. For ticket information call Hollis Daker at (909) 615-6329 or Tom Homen at (209) 606-7257.
NILAND BONUS DOVE — Dove hunters will be looking to add bonus birds to their daily bag by way of shooting Eurasian Collard dove. There is no limit on this tough flying bird during the regular split seasons in California, while these birds are legal to hunt in Arizona all year long with no bag limit. George Dixon of San Pedro shows off a handful of Eurasian birds he shot last opening day. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC