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On-the-Spot: Yuma Area Dove Opener

On-the-Spot: Yuma-area Dove Opener

BY BILL JAENICKE/WON Staff WriterPublished: Sep 07, 2018

YUMA, Ariz. — My son, Jake, and I have established a tradition. For the past eighteen years, nearly without fail, we’ve made Yuma, Ariz. our destination for the Sept. 1 dove opener. This year was no different. Tradition.

The routine goes something like this now: the day before the opener I pick Jake up from his place in San Diego, grab a bite to eat and make the 2½-hour drive to Yuma. First stop is always Sprague's, the grand central station for dove hunters from across the states, to get our 2-day Arizona hunting licenses, ammo and assorted goodies, which this year included a 30th anniversary Big Breast Dove Opener T-shirt and some nice hunting shears for easy wing removal. Then it’s check in time at the hotel followed by some scouting. We found a place we hadn’t hunted before that looked promising. If it didn’t work out we could always go to some our tried and true spots.

JAKE JAENICKE DISPLAYS some of the results of a successful hunt on Day 2 of the dove opener in Yuma.

A recent addition to our tradition is one that I almost hesitate to mention. But that would be selfish of me. Jake and I love good Mexican food and a few years back we found the best little restaurant in Yuma, if not the world. Duron’s El Zarape Grill on 8th Ave (though they’re relocating in October). Absolutely authentic Mexican cuisine, featuring certified Angus beef. The General – a steak-stuffed quesadilla with a blend of cheeses, topped with caramelized onions is a tough dish to beat. They mix a mean margarita to wash it all down with. Truly, next time you’re in Yuma you have to try them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Satiated from the meal, it was back to the hotel for a few games of cribbage before hitting the sack. That 4 a.m. alarm always comes too soon. But come it does, and we load up the guns and gear, fill the cooler with ice and ourselves with hot coffee and head out to the spot to await that first flurry as dawn breaks.

Being a Labor Day weekend, I had expected a lot more hunters. They were there, just not in the spot Jake and I had picked out. So, we had a couple of huge “fields” that we shared with just a few other hunters, all widely spaced out. Just before dawn you could hear the first reports of shotguns being fired, then in a more rapid succession, and the next thing you know it’s your gun being fired at a rocketing, zig-zagging, gray ghost on the fly. Within the space of a few hours, we managed to bag 10 mourning doves apiece and figured we’d fill our limits with an afternoon shoot in a field we had hunted last year that had tons of white-wing in it.

Back at the hotel we cleaned and iced down the birds. And after some pool time and a nap, we showed up there around 5:30 in the afternoon to be blasted by a steady 40-mph wind. But the birds were flying all over the place. Talk about a challenging shoot! Those birds were moving! Still, we managed to fill out limits with white-wing dove and a few Eurasian collared dove. After cleaning them we showered and prepared for the evening.

THE AUTHOR AND one of the fine mourning doves taken on the morning of the dove opener in Yuma, Ariz.

Earlier at the pool Jake met a group of hunters that also work in construction. Turned out that the company Jake works for would often contract them for their trade work. So, they hit it off and invited us to their barbecue at the pool that night. And what a meal! Fresh-caught bluefin sushi, grilled yellowtail, steak fajitas and tortillas, brats, and of course, dove poppers. Washed that down with a couple cold ones and greatly enjoyed the company of some new friends. So, here’s a callout to Beau, Bub, Greg, Mike and Rickie – thanks for the awesome meal!

Day two saw us at the same spot as the previous day. Only, we were the only ones there. There was a good opening flurry and we were shooting better than the day before, so the birds were falling consistently. It slowed down as the sun rose, but we managed to limit out with mostly mourning dove with a few white-wings and collards in the mix. Jake always takes a walk to get his last birds. This year he didn’t have to go far on foot before bagging his last dove. Tradition.

Back at the hotel we cleaned those birds and iced them down. Showered and packed up it was time to go. But we made one more stop at Duron’s El Zarape Grill. I had the Chile Relleno dinner, Jake had the Chicken Enchiladas with a green sauce. Unbelievably good!

And so, we had another great dove opener together. Met some new friends. Ran into some old ones: Clan Carew and good old Rich Holland, who is known for his fishing reporting but has always been a Yuma opener aficionado. On the drive back, Jake and I laid out the ground rules for our dove popper cooking competition. We each prepare 10 poppers. Whoever gets the most acclaim from the family – we’ll be with my daughter Sarah and her lovely family for Labor Day – wins. Tradition. The rest of the doves will find their way into some other dishes as well – you’ll read about my new WONderful recipe in an upcoming issue of WON.

THE FINAL SUCCESS. Chile Rellenos and Chicken Enchiladas at Duron’s El Zarape Grill in Yuma.

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