Arizona Dove Season Shaping Up Positively


Mar 11, 2001
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Arizona Dove Season Shaping Up Positively


PHOENIX - The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has set the dove, band-tailed pigeon and sandhill crane seasons for the 2009-10 hunting seasons and the online regulations should available by mid-July, with the printed regulations being distributed around the last week of July.

"We usually have some of the best dove hunting in the United States, and this year is shaping up very nicely. I'm seeing lots and lots of fat white-winged doves out there right now," said Migratory Bird Biologist Mike Rabe.

Rabe offered a caveat -- there is always a chance many of the white-winged doves could migrate before the season begins, especially if the state is bombarded by intense late-summer storms.

For mourning doves, back-to-back years of good winter precipitation with accompanying seed production and good dove reproduction last summer should result in a robust population this year. "The key for mourning dove hunting is not the population as much as their accessibility. With lots of seeds available in the desert, they might be dispersed again this year. But then again, that can increase hunting opportunities and spread out the hunters as well," Rabe said.

The downside is once again the diminishing urban areas to hunt doves, especially in the Valley of the Sun, although urban expansion may have slowed significantly due to the tough economic times.

Once again this year, the early dove season is Sept. 1-15 with half-day shooting in the desert zone for adult hunters and full-day shooting for youth. For the mountain zone it is all-day shooting.

The juniors-only hunt at the Robbin's Butte Wildlife Area is scheduled for Sept. 5-6. Young hunters can expect to be treated to the traditional pancake and sausage breakfast from the good folks with the Chandler Rod & Gun Club following the hunt. This is an excellent introduction hunt for youngsters. There are even experts on hand if needed to help mentor.

The collared dove season was once again set for year-long hunting with an unlimited bag limit. The regulations provide illustrations on how to tell the difference between the different dove species.

The late dove season is Nov. 20, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010 (all-day shooting). "With a great Gambel's quail season expected in central Arizona this year, hunting dove and quail together should be almost irresistible, especially for those new to hunting. Rabbit populations are also good this year," Rabe said.

Young hunters and others new to hunting will want to check the Game and Fish Web site at for a listing of introductory hunting workshops or camps. The department is teaming up with sportsmen's organizations and the goal is to have at least two dozen camps during the upcoming season.

Sandhill cranes
For the sandhill crane hunt (which is done by drawing), the Game and Fish Commission increased the number of tags per hunter from two to three to encourage applicants to put in this year (you apply in August and the hunt is in December).

"These large birds make remarkably good table fare," Rabe said. "For some families, a crane for the table has become a regular Arizona holiday tradition like chili pepper wreaths, cactus candy and prickly pear jelly."

The season dates are mostly in November with one hunt in early December. The department will begin taking applications for the crane hunts starting Aug. 3, by mail only, and the deadline for the department to receive the applications is Sept. 1.

Surveys show a steady increase in the wintering sandhill crane population in Arizona, with a record 36,823 cranes in 2008.

"Much of this success can be attributed to hunting providing revenue for habitat acquisition in the state, such as the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. It's really a tremendous success story," Rabe said.

Rabe pointed out that the increasing number of wintering sandhill cranes has also created one of the state's unique winter wildlife watching attractions. "So others benefit as well, including rural communities in southern Arizona," Rabe said.

Once again this year, there are junior's-only tags available for sandhill cranes, but the number of permits this year is 25. "Parents will want to take advantage of these tags for their young hunters. It's a remarkable experience to hunt these very large birds that can have wingspans of around 6 1/2 feet," Rabe said.

Don't forget that even out-of-state youth can get a youth combination hunting and fishing license for the same price as a resident youth.

There is also a three-day archery-only hunt for sandhills on Nov. 13-15 with 25 permits.

Band-tailed pigeons
While populations are increasing for sandhill cranes and the dove season looks promising, don't get your hopes up for band-tailed pigeons.

"Even though we had a tremendous mast crop such as acorns last year and will likely be good again this year, we just don't have much in the way of band-tail numbers in Arizona. In fact, band-tailed pigeon populations are usually spotty and can vary greatly from year to year," Rabe said.

The band-tailed pigeon hunt is from Sept. 11-Oct. 4 in the north zone where the majority of hunting occurs (Hunt Units 1 through 15C, 16A, 17 through 20A, 23, and 24A) and in the south zone from Sept. 18-Oct. 4.


The Arizona Game and Fish Department prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, or disability in its programs and activities. If anyone believes that they have been discriminated against in any of the AGFD's programs or activities, including employment practices, they may file a complaint with the Deputy Director, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000, (602) 942-3000, or with the Fish and Wildlife Service, 4040 N. Fairfax Dr. Ste. 130, Arlington, VA 22203. Persons with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation or this document in an alternative format by contacting the Deputy Director as listed above.

Rory AIkens (623) 236-7214

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