Dove season opens September 1; Opportunities available throughout California
The first of two opening days of dove hunting season in California is fast approaching. Dove hunters will be able to hunt Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Spotted Dove and Ringed Dove from Thursday September 1st to Thursday September 15th, followed by a second hunting season, from Saturday November 12th to Monday December 26th.
The dove opening of September 1 is one of the most anticipated dates in the hunting calendar and is considered by many to be the traditional start of hunting seasons in California.
Mourning Dove and White-winged Dove have a daily bag limit of 15, of which up to 10 can be White-winged Doves. The possession limit is three times the daily bag limit. There is no limit for the spotted dove and the ringed dove. Collared Dove hunting is open year-round and there are no bag or possession limits. A dove identification guide (PDF) is available on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website.
Hunters are reminded that lead-free ammunition is required to hunt doves and take wildlife anywhere in California with a firearm.
Many dove hunting opportunities are available to the public for the first dove season at CDFW Wildlife Areas statewide. These areas include Upper Butte Basin, Gray Lodge, Yolo Bypass, North Grasslands, Los Banos and Imperial Valley Wildlife Areas, and Palo Verde Ecological Reserve. Many of these areas have been planted with food crops to attract and retain doves. Maps are available at some checkpoints or online. Entry procedures vary by region and hunters are advised to call ahead to plan their hunt. Parts of the Los Banos and Northern Grasslands Wildlife Areas are restricted to special permit holders until noon on September 1, after which they will be open to public hunting for the remainder of the first season.
Additional dove hunting opportunities are available to the public through CDFW’s Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts and SHARE programs. Dove hunting is considered an excellent starting point for new hunters. This is often the first hunting season available to newly licensed hunters who have completed their off-season hunter education. There’s very little gear needed, usually lots of rapid-fire action, camaraderie, and plenty of hunting opportunities on public lands.
Doves are a table favorite and many dove hunters and their friends and families are already looking forward to bacon and jalapeño-wrapped dove poppers on the grill among other favorite dove recipes.
Minimum hunting requirements are a valid hunting license and upland game bird validation (validation not required for junior hunting license holders), good footwear, a shotgun of almost any caliber , lead-free shotgun shells, a cooler with ice to store your birds, and plenty of water for the generally hot weather. For more dove hunting information and resources, CDFW’s Advanced Hunter Education program offers videos to get you started and CDFW’s R3 program also offers additional resources and videos.
Mourning Doves prefer dry environments and can exploit many food types and sources. The most successful dove hunters will position themselves near paths to and from roost sites, water, food sources, or gravel. Doves’ movements are more frequent in the early morning and late evening when they fly to and from their roosting sites, but late morning to early afternoon can still provide opportunities. Hunters should monitor dove activity in the area a few times before hunting.
As a dove hunter, you may have a chance of encountering a banded dove. As of August 15, CDFW staff and volunteers have banded more than 1,100 doves across California. If you harvest a banded dove, please report the band to the US Geological Survey (www.reportband.gov) to help further research on the dove.
The CDFW Wildlife Health Laboratory recently confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic Eurasian avian influenza H5N1 in three wild birds found in Colusa and Glenn counties. If you suspect a dove is infected with Avian Influenza or Trichomonas, please contact the CDFW Wildlife Health Lab by email or phone (916) 358-2790.
Important laws and regulations to consider include:
- The shooting time for the doves is from half an hour before sunrise until sunset.
- All hunters, including junior hunting license holders, must have their hunting license on them.
- Hunters must have written permission from the owner before hunting on private land.
- Bag limits apply to each hunter and no one can take more than one legal limit.
- It is forbidden to shoot within 150 meters of an occupied dwelling.
- It is illegal to shoot from or across a public road.
It is the responsibility of every hunter to know and follow all laws.
Safety is the most important part of any hunting adventure. Safety glasses are a simple way to protect the eyes and come in many tints for hunting in all types of lighting situations. Hearing protection is also strongly recommended.
Weather across the state on September 1 is expected to be warm and dry. CDFW urges hunters to drink plenty of fluids, wear sunscreen and have a plan in case of an accident.
Taylor Williams, CDFW R3 Program, (916) 203-1362
Dan Skalos, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 373-8829
Mourning Dove, Donna / stock.adobe.com