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Every September, it’s not just dove which flock to Yuma — thousands of hunters from all over converge on the Arizona border town for some of the best dove hunting found anywhere on earth.
Surrounded by vistas of farmland and intersected by the Colorado River, Yuma is home to a
premiere hunting experience. Thanks to a partnership between Arizona Game & Fish Department and local growers, large amounts of cropland are dedicated to prolonged grain farming which attracts migratory fowl. "In 2016, we worked with farmers to have six fields serving as a food source for dove. This year, there are eight fields spanning 117 acres," said Chris Bedinger, Public Information Officer at Arizona Game & Fish Department’s Region IV office. "Recent changes to restrictions have also increased accessible land to nearly one-million acres of open, undeveloped, uninhabited desert areas within city limits for dove hunting."
As for Yuma’s people population, residents and businesses are accustomed to welcoming the annual influx of hunters, their friends, and families with an array of hotel accommodations, dining options, shopping, and entertainment. It is because of this unique blend of exceptional hospitality and outstanding hunting conditions that Yuma has defined itself as the Dove Hunting Capital of North America.
Before arriving, it is important to note this year’s hunting restrictions. For 2017, previous years’ bag limits remain in effect throughout the early season (Sept. 1-15): 15 mourning and white-winged doves per day in the aggregate, of which no more than 10 may be white-winged doves. The possession limit stays at 45 mourning and white-winged doves in the aggregate, of which no more than 30 may be white-winged doves. For those holding off until late season (Nov. 25, 2017 to Jan. 8, 2018), bag and possession limits are 15 and 45 mourning doves respectively.
With the early season kicking off alongside the Labor Day holiday, there will be no shortage of fun in between hunts; and, as always, local organizations are stepping up to provide an assortment of activities across opening weekend. Whether you’re a Yuma resident, a long-time visitor, or a first-timer, these events are open to the public.
For the 29th year, Sprague’s Sports hosts its annual Big Breast Dove Hunting Contest — no entry fees or registration required! Beginning Sept. 1 and ending at noon the next day, hunters need only to stop by the Sprague’s Sports shop with their biggest bird for a chance to win a portion of the prize pool. Eligible entrants must bring a mourning or white-winged dove (no Eurasians), cleaned, with one wing attached for identification purposes. For more information, call 928-726-0022.
Photo courtesy of George Andrejko, Arizona Game & Fish Department
Then, on Sept. 2 the 4th Annual Clint Curry Memorial Youth Dove Shoot takes place in Dome Valley from 5 to 11 a.m. Does your child need a license? Arizona Game & Fish Department will on be on site to sell $5 junior licenses to kids 10 and older. After the hunt, a free lunch and cold drinks will be served to attendees. For more information, call Mark Brooks at 928-210-7627.
Also on Saturday, the 2nd Annual World Championship Dove Cook-Off takes place at Cocopah Casino Resort from noon to 2 p.m. Pitting home cooks and professional chefs up against each other, this competition demands creative dove recipes from which a panel of judges picks the best dish. Register to show off your skills, or be in attendance to watch the action. For more information, click over to YumaDoveHunting.com or call 928-376-0100.
Festivities continue Saturday evening with the 11th Annual Mike Mitchell Memorial Dove Hunter’s Barbeque at Cocopah Bend RV & Golf Resort. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. with dinner served at 6. In addition to great food, auctions will take place alongside raffles and games for all ages. Tickets at the door cost $20 per adult, $10 for kids 12 years and younger. For more information, call Chris Mitchell at 928-580-1461. Proceeds from this event benefit youth and wildlife conservation efforts.
Rounding out the list of events is the Jim Breck Memorial Dove Derby on Monday, Sept. 4. Sign-ups take place on Sept. 1 and 2 at the Yuma Valley Rod & Gun Club booth at Sprague’s Sports, between 9 a.m. and noon. Entry fee for adults is $5 with an extra $5 for competitive shooters, and free for kids 15 and younger. The objective is to bag as many doves as possible (not more than 15), in as little time as possible, using as few shells as possible (25 shell max). For more details, or to sign up by phone, call Bill Roosma at 928-503-6392.
Undeniably, the success of dove hunting season in Yuma is not without the support of the agricultural community. All hunters are asked to observe posted signage and be good stewards of the land. Furthermore, in order to protect all wildlife and to preserve Arizona’s dove hunting tradition for future generations, please remember to take the time to clean up before departing each hunting location. Doing so lessens the burden of trash pickup and disposal for farmers, and helps to ensure food safety. As an added measure, Visit Yuma is organizing a field cleanup for the morning of Sept. 16. If you or your community group would like to volunteer, please call 928-376-0100 to sign up.
To find more information about hunting in Arizona and to apply for a license online, be sure to visit the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s website at AZGFD.com. For more details about hunting in Yuma, city news, and upcoming event information, go to YumaDoveHunting.com, VisitYuma.com, and YumaAZ.gov.
It is no secret — dove hunters love Yuma and Yuma loves visitors. If you have not yet experienced what makes Yuma a dove hunter’s paradise, make your plans to be here for the start of the early season and see why you will be coming back to the Dove Hunting Capital of North America for years to come.
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