Hunting Report

Northern dove opener dismal for most, some good reports

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

SACRAMENTO — The dove opener was the worst in years for most avid wingshooters, although there were some good reports and even the occasional 15-bird limits shot by a few hunters who were in exactly the right spot.

DOVE SEASON WAS hot near Red Bluff where WON Field Reporter Mike Krause took his daughter, Brittany, out on Saturday for their first dove hunt, and they shot limits on BLM land alongside the Sacraemnto River east of Red Bluff. They had to adjust their leads for high flying, fast birds.

Speculation of the poor showing of doves runs the gamut, but from what this writer has observed, it’s a combination of late nesting and hot sultry weather. There are still doves sitting on nests currently, and there is no sign that the migration has even begun yet, which means the birds are still scattered all through the California and states to the north. In addition, the hot, sultry weather has doves staying close to their roost trees in the shade.

Field reports were of singles, doubles and groups of 4 doves, but no mention of the larger flocks that are indicative of birds gathering for migration. When doves start gathering for migration it’s a lot easier finding areas with big numbers of doves, plus they are more active in the cooler weather.

This reporter didn’t even hunt, but I drove over to White Slough Wildlife Area off Int. 5 near Lodi and there were over a dozen cars parked there on Saturday morning before shooting light, and one hunter who was heading out said the shooting was “great” on Friday, but he “had to hike to the third pond” to find the birds (a long hike).

Reports were mixed in the Sacramento Valley:

“Sad to say, that my buddy and I saw only about 20 birds today at the Alvarez ranch in Maxwell,” reported Krisna Pernaul. “Only a handful came within range, and we did not convert, getting a total of zero. Other hunters stationed deeper in the ranch did quite well, however.” Pernaul said it was a 6,000-acre working cattle ranch against the foothills and they were set up against a creek bed with turkey mullen.

doves_huntingisnonHUNTING IS non-political, and for those who participate, it has been and remains the greatest outdoor enjoyment anyone can experience. And dove hunting is a great way to get started. PHOTO BY GEORGE KAMMERER

“We thought it had promise, but there was hardly a morning flight to speak of at our spot,” Pernaul said. “The guys who did well were deeper into the ranch along the same creek bed. By 10 a.m. it was 101 degrees and everything stopped moving all over the property. We left at 10:30. We did see a group of 8 wild hogs though, which I thought was cool.”

Near Corning, Chad Donley was hunting a large field of natural grass and a watering hole on opening day and shot his 15-bird limit. “The birds were flying at the start of shoot time with flights of 1, 2, 3, and 4 birds,” Donley said. “There were no large flocks. The flight pattern was from east to west into a fairly strong breeze. I used 4 decoys plus one with spinning wings and kept hidden behind a small tree that provided some shade from the hot weather.” He had his limit around 9 a.m.

Also near Corning, Roland Price from Union City told WON it was a “good opener” for him and friends Cliff Edley of Fremont, Ricky Hull of Fairfield and Ken Watkins of Hayward. The action was “fast and furious” along a creek bed, open fields and oak trees in Corning, and he shot one Eurasian in addition to his 15-bird mourning dove limit.

Fowl Weather Guide Service took out Kevin Taylor and a friend and put them on the back side of a pond in a walnut orchard in Orland. They both shot limits. “Not much of a story, just me and an old friend doing what we love,” Taylor said. The birds were retrieved by his black lab “Ranger”.

There were plenty of doves along the Sacramento River east of Red bluff, though, and WON Field Reporter Mike Krause took his daughter, Brittany, for limits on Saturday: “I had to work on opening day but my daughter and I did make it out on day two. We planned to hunt on BLM land East of Red Bluff and we made our way out to an oak tree line that has been good in the past. The birds were flying, fast and high. We were shooting and not hitting the birds, so Brittany and I talked our way through it and figured it out: big lead, follow through! We started nailing them and ended up with limits Not bad for a public land area on the second morning dove hunt!”

doves_orlandlimitsORLAND LIMTS — Kevin Taylor and a friend, along with black lab “Ranger”, shot limits of doves with Fowl Weather Guide Service alongside a pond in a walnut orchard in Orland.

Hunting action in Placer County was mixed:

George Kammerer, of On the Fly Guide Service said he had a pair of Silicon Valley tech executives out with him on the opener, Ray Lane and Carl Schachter, and they ended up with a nice mixed bag of Euros and mourning doves alongside a walnut orchard in Placer County. That evening he took Connor and Rich Cody out to a water hole in thee Central Valley foothills and they shot their 15-bird limits. Over the weekend, Kammerer also took out Jim, Cole and Austin March and Travis Swafford for near limits by lining them up alongside a fallow field along a creek in Placer County.

Jeff Wall of Placerville didn’t make it out, but he said that friend Bob Werling went up to the Oroville refuge alongside the Feather River on Saturday and came into it on the east side off 70. “He saw nothing, heard a couples of shots off in the distance and said he figured it would be dead, as there was only a couple of trucks in the parking lot.”

Dove hunting wasn’t red hot over in the Bay Area:

One longtime reader who didn’t want to be indentified said: “Last year our 5 guns, shot 75 birds by 8:30 a.m., and this year, in the same spot, 5 guns only shot 7 doves by 10 a.m. It was beyond belief. I shot 2 birds with 4 shots. We hunted a ‘pay-to-play’ ranch in Pleasanton. Wild mullen was abundant last year, but mostly gone this year. We were all extremely disappointed.”

In the area south of Sacramento between I-5 and the foothills, there were good and bad areas:

High School hunting buddies, Bill Gaines and Bill Bernard hooked up for an opening day reunion shoot over a potluck field near Linden east of Lodi, and shooting was fast and furious. He sent a text to this writer at 7:15 a.m. that read “all done.” That’s fast limits!

Neil Simpson of Lodi worked hard for 9 dove in the evening on a private ranch in the Delta, while Kevin Huff and his son Kris of Stockton put in early limits on a private ranch east of Stockton.

FAMILY FUN — It was a fun opening day for Jim, Cole and Austin March and Travis Swafford while hunting with On The Fly Outfitters for near limits on in a fallow field along a creek in Placer County.

The San Joaquin Valley was the same as the north state: fair to good:

Down in the San Joaquin Valley, Mickey Clements of Coyote Bait and Tackle in Morgan Hill had a great hunt on the opener with limits by 10 a.m. hunting in a private orchard with standing water near Firebaugh.

Merritt Gilbert of Valley Rod and Gun in Clovis, near Fresno, said he and his three sons and grandsons shot limits at a private ranch near Friant on the opener.

Nathan Mollat hunted on a private ranch in Trimmer Springs, just outside of Sanger in Central California. “This was the first time in four years we hunted and there were more birds this year. My brother got a limit. There seemed to be a lot of birds but they were staying low to the ground. On top of the heat there was a lot of smoke around. It was really hazy.”

David Mein hunted private land 15 miles east of Los Banos and has been hunting this private ranch for more than 45 years: We were on the San Joaquin River on a bend where birds flock. We got there at 6:05 and shot through 10 a.m.. It was steady singles and doubles and with four guns we got 40 birds. Every five or 10 minutes birds would come by. It wasn’t a great year where big flocks come by, and it was all mourning doves except for one Eurasian.

“I rate this year as probably a five out of 10,” Mein said. “A 10 is when you limit in a half hour, and a one is when you only get a few shots in 3 hours. I had two sitting-wing decoys and the birds just zero in on them. Guys on the other side of the river were doing a lot better, but they always do.”

Even farther south, Marc Christophel hunted near Santa Margarita Lake. It was “Not as good as I thought it was going to be. Last year was better. I was thinking the heat all summer, not just this weekend, had an impact on the birds’ movement. I had one long shot and that was it.”

doves_placersuccessPLACER SUCCESS — Ray Lang and Carl Schachter shot a mixed bag of Eurasian doves and mourning doves with On the Fly Outfitters on opening day in a walnut orchard in Placer County.

doves_partiallimitPARTIAL LIMIT — Chad Donley is shown here with 9 of the 15 doves he shot on opening daywhile he was hunting private property near Corning.

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