Dove showing in good numbers

BY JIM NIEMIEC/WON Staff WriterPublished: Jul 22, 2009

SAN JACINTO VALLEY — Dove appear to have enjoyed a successful nesting this summer and flyways are starting to fill up with doves. While whitewing and Eurasian Collared dove populations are building in the Imperial Valley; neighboring Riverside and San Bernardino counties are holding good numbers of mourning dove, which got off an excellent hatch in the desert regions and unpopulated chunks of Southland vacant land.

“The breeding period started early and lasted well into July for the San Jacinto Valley. There are mourning dove flying all across the valley floor and more birds are moving in for the native feed and water that is available. I would think that unless we are pounded by severe weather in August, there should be excellent dove hunting in the valley come opening day,” reported Sam Elder, owner of the Four Winds Pheasant Club.

Elder expects a good opener on his hunting ranch that has native crops, dove weed, some safflower and plenty of nearby water. There are a number of flyways on the club that should offer up good gunning. Hunters will be allowed to pick a spot prior to sunrise and then shoot until 8 a.m. After the morning shoot, hunters will report to the clubhouse and fields will be assigned for hunting of released pheasant and chukar that should combine to make it a fun day of upland game bird hunting.

“There is plenty of dove weed and sunflowers that are now seeding out. These two native crops are very high on the list of what dove feed on and there is plenty on our property. We are hopeful that the local population, which nested on the club, will stick around and provide good gunning on opening day, and especially for those who will be taking advantage of our 3-day Labor Day hunting special,” said Dave Whiteside of the Antelope Valley Sportsmen’s Club.

WON visited the Wister Wildlife Refuge this past week and really didn’t see much in the way of dove numbers, but it was still very early in the summer and according to Scott Sewell, who heads up operations at Wister, most of the birds are still nesting on parts of the refuge and lots are still holding up in the desert regions that funnel into the Imperial Valley.    

This hunting editor probably saw more Eurasian Collared dove than combined numbers of whitewing and mourning dove as we toured the vast refuge. The native seed crops are just now maturing and fresh water is irrigating the ponds. This combination of food and water should attract lots of dove as the summer heat bakes the rest of the valley.

The high deserts are also seeing lots of dove. Birds are using established flyways across Hwy. 395, between Lone Pine and Bishop, and the Lower Owens Valley should provide good gunning. The DWP continues to release water through the Lower Owens River and this has re-established wetlands and habitat that is ideally suited for dove and other upland game birds. Hunters can access these flyways by taking roads leading down into the valley floor. It is usually an early morning and early afternoon flight of birds that wing over huntable property, but some of the land is posted, so make sure that you plan your hunt accordingly. A stop at Lone Pine Sporting Goods or Culver’s Sporting Goods in Bishop would be a good idea if you have any questions about spots that are open for dove hunting.

No dove hunting will be allowed on the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, but there are un-posted hunting spots in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and clear on over to the outskirts of Bakersfield. WON received a couple of reports from hunters out scouting in Kern County and they reported seeing about the same number of birds that they have seen over the past couple of good years.

Bitterwater Outfitters will offer dove hunting again this season, as it hunts over unharvested wheat fields and around watering holes.

“This area of the central valley is starting to attract a lot of mourning dove and I see no reason to expect less than limits over the opening week of shooting. This flyway always seems to hold a good population of mourning dove and they traditionally stick around in huntable numbers through the second season. We will be offering hunters a chance to combo up on wild hogs if they book a multi-day hunt package with us,” said master guide Clayton Grant of Bitterwater Outfitters.

The RS Bar Guest Ranch is booked for opening day and most of opening weekend, but dove pour onto ranch property throughout the first half of the dove season. This hunting ranch should be put on a hunter’s list as an option to hunting other properties and public land that traditionally receive a lot of hunting pressure.

WON readers looking for a special place to hunt dove might want to consider attending the Quail Unlimited Dove Tuneup and BBQ, which will be held at the Triple B Clays range on Wednesday evening, the 12th of August. The San Gabriel Chapter of QU will be hosting the event and conduct a drawing for a 2-day dove/hog combo hunt at the California Department of Fish and Game’s Chimineas Ranch. A winning ticket will be drawn during the BBQ/shoot that night. For additional information, contact this very active upland game bird chapter via or leave a voice mail at (866) 206-9070 xt. 6715.

The daily bag limit for dove will be 10 birds of any species, with a possession limit of twice the daily bag limit after opening day. Whitewing dove can only be harvested in Imperial, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, while mourning dove and Eurasian Collared dove are huntable throughout the state. Hunters are required to have an upland game bird heritage stamp on their hunting license and also have properly completed a Harvest Information Program form and have the appropriate stamp attached to their license. Some hunting areas require dove hunters shoot only non-toxic shoot (ie., Tejon Ranch and federal wildlife refuges)

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