(Photos feature Bill Shook, a native Yuman and lifetime member of Yuma Rod & Gun Club, on the opening day of dove season, in which he's taken part for nearly 70 years. Photos by Bob Shook of Portland, Ore.)
From elk to small game -- and even waterfowl -- few states enjoy the diverse hunting opportunities that Arizona offers. In the Yuma area, the primary prey species are bighorn sheep, mule deer, dove, quail and waterfowl.
Arizonans and nonresidents over the age of 14 need a valid license to hunt in the state. A person under 14 may hunt wildlife other than big game if accompanied by a licensed adult, but can only hunt big game if he or she completes a hunter education course.
Most types of hunting and fishing licenses are available online at the Arizona Game and Fish Department Web site, www.azgfd.gov, or at 300 dealers statewide. The website also offers detailed information on regulations, hunting areas and more. The Yuma regional office is located at 9140 E. 28th St., 928.342.0091.
Lifetime licenses (hunting, fishing, combo and trout stamp) are now available. You must have been a bona fide resident of Arizona for six months to buy one, but you can then hunt or fish in Arizona forever, even if you move elsewhere.
Yuma is home to two shooting ranges, one outdoors and one indoors.
Adair Shooting Range is located about 15 miles northeast of Yuma on Highway 95 (turn left/west about 3/4 mile past Gila River bridge). Adair includes ranges for pistol, archery, big bore, small bore, trap and skeet, police combat, silhouette and black powder, along with a camping area. It's operated and maintained for all to safely enjoy by Adair Ranges, Inc., a private, nonprofit corporation comprised of Yuma-area shooting and recreation clubs.
The indoor range is at Sprague's Sports, Inc., 345 W. 32nd St., and includes ten 25-yard lanes with automatic target retrieval system, rated for pistol and rifle up to 3600 fps.
For more info on either, including the event schedule for the Adair range, call 928-726-0022 or 800-440-3892 or go to http://www.spragues.com.
The only season nonhunters in the Yuma area are likely to notice is the September 1 opening of dove season. Though numbers are down from all-time peaks in the 1960s and '70s, the beginning of dove season often results in crowded restaurants and "no vacancy" signs at local hotels, especially if it falls on or near a weekend.
Yuma remains a prime dove-hunting area because of agriculture and the large amounts of acreage still devoted to grain farming on both sides of the border. Grain fields provide nesting cover and food for the two main species hunted here, the mourning dove and the white-winged dove. Mourning doves remain in the area year round, while white-wings migrate south to Mexico as crops are harvested and fall storms move in.
Arizona Game and Fish estimates that over the last decade, 45,000 to 60,000 hunters have bagged from one to 1.3 million mourning doves every year - and a significant part of that harvest takes place in and around Yuma. Check in with local sporting goods stores for specifics on local conditions and hunting restrictions, as well as for special dove season contests and promotions.