Jim Niemiec's Blog

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Wednesday, August 08, 2018
Zone A deer hunting concerns
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
What’s new afield

Now is the time to check out your shotgun!
Don’t wait until opening morning of dove season to find out that you have a mal-function with your favorite upland game bird shotgun. Many times over the past half a century, this hunting editor has been with hunting parties where at least one hunter required the use of a back up shotgun, loaner or had to pass a shotgun back and forth between hunting buddies.

Western Outdoor News headed out to Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises shotgun and 5 Stand target ranges this past week and joined in on some fun clay bird shooting. It was a busy venue and most likely closer to opening day of dove season, the ranges will have longer lines of shooters awaiting their turn at each station. Fortunately, this shooter’s Charles Daly 20 ga. O/U shot just fine after spending a few weeks in the hands of Fred Borders, owner of Bolsa Gunsmithing, (714) 894-9100, in Westminster.

PRE-OPENER EURASIAN DOVE SHOOT — WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec shows off a bunch of Eurasian collared dove that he shot just outside the rural town of Niland shooting with Federal Premium copper-plated 7.5 shot. Many dove hunters try to shoot a few of these big dove prior to opening morning of dove season. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO

Not only is it a good idea to head out to a nearby range to sharpen up one’s shooting eye, but it’s also time to make sure your shotgun barrel is clean and that any rust or grime is removed before heading out to a dove field.

Western Outdoor News checked in with Mendel Woodland, operator of Mendel’s Hunting, (626) 255-1422, based out of El Centro, who has some spots for opening weekend of dove season.

“I still have a couple of open spots for dove hunters come opening weekend. The ranches that I will be hunting this year are currently holding good numbers of both mourning and white-winged dove. I limit the number of hunters on each ranch and spread my hunters out to ensure that each shooter gets a good opportunity at harvesting his limit of dove. There are also pretty good numbers of Eurasian collared dove winging through this part of the valley,” said Woodland.

There is more good news coming out of the Yuma region from Richard Spraque, owner of Sprague’s Sports, (928) 502-0447, whose huge retail store is in Yuma, Ariz.

“We had a dove opener planning meeting last Thursday with vested parties and as of today the white-winged dove population is looking solid. In fact, the AZGFD small game biologist form Phoenix was down for the meeting and previously toured a bunch of different fields and was impressed. His report stated that there were no pre-migration formations of white-winged, which is thought to be a good indicator (of dove sticking around through opening weekend). We are still way behind in moisture here in Yuma County overall with only some spotty thundershower activity,” reported Sprague.

California Dept. of Game and Wildlife regulations still allow the shooting of lead shot for upland game bird species, but dove hunters heading out to state properties (ie. Wister or San Jacinto) to hunt will have to use non-toxic shot. Some hunting clubs also require dove hunters to shoot non-toxic shot. Tejon Ranch, (661) 663-4284, and the High Desert Hunt Club both don’t allow upland game hunters to shoot lead shot. Turner’s Outdoorsman is having a sale on non-toxic upland game bird loads and although the price is still much higher than lead shot, at least this non-toxic ammo is a little cheaper than the full MSRP. One exception to lower priced upland game bird ammo would be those that opt to shoot bismuth shot, which is still on the higher priced side.

Three concerns that dove hunters should be aware of when hunting a fallow field. Due to the extreme heat that has carried on through the entire summer season, there is a better-than-even chance that some hunters, and their gun dogs, might run into a rattlesnake. Lower native grass and shrubs could allow a snake to strike quicker than in tall vegetation likely making them more aggressive. Also, when hunting an abandoned farm field, make sure that you stay away from areas where there is low-strung barbed wire. Dave Macke of Trabuco Canyon, manages a hunt club out in Prado Basin, and he was out cutting barbed wire this past weekend to ensure safer conditions when hunting with a sporting dog. Another concern, but not a critical one, will be the presence of foxtails. The lack of significant rains this past year, resulted in crops of foxtails being not as serious as it was when normal rains fell across most all of Southern California. But check your hunting dog after the hunt anyway.

On the brighter side of this year’s dove season is the wide spread of turkey millet (or more normally called dove weed) that seems to grow well with hot weather. Most all the hillsides of open terrain have some of this plant. As the seeds dry up, drop and turn blackish, these seeds make for an excellent food source for dove.

For those hunting dove, an upland game bird stamp ($9.72) is required and this stamp can be purchased at any DFW licensing station or online. The daily limit on mourning dove is 15 and a combined limit of mourning dove and white-winged dove cannot exceed 10 white-wings. The possession bag limit after three separate days of hunting, (ie. through Monday, Sept. 3, Labor Day) is triple the daily bag limit.

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