Hunting Report

Yuma Dove Opener full of surprises

By BILL JAENICKE/WON Staff WriterPublished: Sep 08, 2017

Tradition can be a good thing. The tradition that my son, Jake, and I have shared each year since he was nine (he’s 27 now) of going to Yuma, Ariz., for the Sept. 1 dove opener falls in the good category.

Yuma is the western capitol of Dovedom. It is there that both migratory doves and migratory hunters converge. That intersection of hunter and hunted makes for hunting experiences that range between good and outstanding.

JAKE JAENICKE AND his lone mourning dove from Day 2. A hard dove is good to find.

As is our custom, the first stop upon arrival is at Sprague’s Sports. It is the town hall of Dovedom. There we get our Arizona licenses and shotshells — 20 gauge for Jake and 12 gauge for me. For those into firearms it is full of eye candy, especially if you’re from California.

Next, we check into our hotel room which was reserved when we checked out last year. Did I mention that Yuma is a very popular dove opener destination?

And then it’s off to scout out where we’re going to hunt in the morning. We have a spot that we’ve been going to the past five years. Before that were other spots. It’s always something different in that fields and orchards that were open to hunting the last time may be posted this time. You need to know in advance.

Our main spot is in the desert where the Gila and Colorado rivers converge. We weren’t too concerned about it being posted for no hunting. But on the drive out, we came to the field where we harvested late afternoon Eurasian Collared dove last year. There was now a series of very nice and well-lit baseball fields there and the field on the other side of the street that was a sure bet in the morning was now posted as no-hunting by some huge agribusiness conglomerate that now owned it. Progress, right?

Driving down the dike, we flushed tons of birds sitting along the canal. Good sign. At our spot we came across Keith and his white English pointer, Wyatt. Great guy. Great dog. Soon we were joined by Clan Carew, three brothers and their sons who we’ve hunted with many times over the years. The sons have grown into men now.

THE AUTHOR WITH his Eurasian Collared Dove from the first day’s shoot in the desert.

Had a great Mexican dinner at Mi Rancho and then a quick couple of games of cribbage with Jake. Three a.m. saw us up and heading out to our spot. As dawn broke we were in position. A slow but steady series of shotgun blasts began off in the distance. The flurry of dove at our spot never materialized like it had last year. Still, with patience and persistence, we managed to get almost a limit of mournings and whitewings. We figured we’d fill it out in the afternoon.

But that was not to be. I scratched. Jake picked up a couple more. Ran into Keith on the way out and he said it was an easy limit in the unposted fields just down the road. We figured that’s where we’d hunt in the morning.

That evening at dinner at the best Mexican food restaurant in Yuma, Duron’s El Zarape, Clan Carew informed us that they had hunted some fields a couple of miles from our spot and that there was an insane number of birds flying. Change of plans and a new destination.

Five a.m. saw us caravanning out to that spot. Cotton fields on one side, empty dirt clod fields on the other. Lots of hunters. We cruised until we found a relatively unoccupied field and set up shop.

As the sun began to rise, you could hear the thump-thump and pops of distant shotguns. Soon that intermittent rat-a-tat became a staccato and the game was on. Groups of 10, 20, 30 birds began flying from the river heading our way. It was crazy style flurry shooting. I had my limit of whitewings by 6:30 with a collared thrown in. Jake did the same. But we needed to fill it out with five mourning dove each.

We bid adieu to the field and headed back out to our spot in the desert. Set up our chairs in the shade of a tamarisk tree and waited. This is not field hunting. Here you have about a second to see the bird(s) crest the bushes and shoot them so they fall in a patch of dirt where you can retrieve them. After a bit, Jake decided to walk the brush. I stayed put in the shade and soon was rewarded with two mourning doves flying into the kill zone. Bang, bang and two doves on the ground! A double with an over and under was the perfect ending to a great hunt!

Jake decided to walk the river, literally. He changed to shorts and bare feet and headed off while I remained in the FJ with the A/C on, listening to Limbaugh. Forty-five minutes later, ripples emanating from downstream signaled Jake’s return. Big grin. Pulled out a mourning dove and described the shot, how it landed in some brush, the search — first one feather and then more and then the bird. A hard dove is good to find.

A LIMIT OF whitewings and a collared from the second day’s morning shoot.

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