California's most popular game bird will not let hunters down this year, the Department of Fish and Game says.
If the dove-hunting season were to begin today, hunters would have no trouble bagging limits. However, they will have to wait until the traditional Sept. 1 opening day to take to the field in pursuit of their favorite foul.
Barring thunderstorms, which have been known to ruin many a dove opener, this year's should be one of the best.
Conditions are "outrageous for doves," according to DFG biologist John Massie, who says that the Mecca for Southland dove hunters--the Imperial Valley--should again be the best place to start.
"The Imperial Valley is the Valhalla of dove shooting in California, the area that will stand up best under all weather conditions," Massie said.
Chris Gonzalez, habitat supervisor at the state-run Imperial Wildlife Area, said white-wing and mourning doves are plentiful and feeding happily on desert sunflowers.
"Feed lots are full of them," Gonzalez said. "And birds are thick along the canals and in orchards from the Wister Unit (of the wildlife area) south to Finney Lake."
Warden Steve Messick in El Centro reported to the DFG that this is the best year for doves he has seen in the nine years he has been in the area.
Conditions are not quite as good for those planning to hunt the Winterhaven area of the Colorado River because fields have been cleared of crops that normally would hold the birds, but Riverside County hunters should have no trouble flushing birds.
"I'm flushing them everywhere I go in the Coachella Valley," said Tom Stenson, an Indio-based DFG warden.
Other areas that should prove at least fairly productive are the desert washes south of La Quinta, the canyons of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, the Blythe desert area in Riverside County and the Palo Verde Valley desert area of eastern Riverside County, along the Mojave River in San Bernardino County and throughout the Lucerne Valley east of Victorville.
In Los Angeles County, hunters can try their luck in the thick chaparral in the Angeles National Forest foothills near Palmdale along the California Aqueduct and on public land near the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve west of Palmdale.
Access is becoming a problem in these areas, however, as development is encroaching on hunting lands.
"A number of good hunting areas are just too close to homes, or are located on private land," biologist Kevin Brennan said. "You need written permission to hunt on private land and more and more owners are refusing it."
Dove hunting season runs through Sept. 15, then reopens Nov. 13 and runs through Dec. 27.
Shooting hours are from half an hour before sunrise to sunset, with a limits of 10 birds daily and 20 in possession after two or more days' hunting.
The shooting of white-wing doves is legal only in Imperial, San Bernardino and Riverside counties and the same limits apply.
New this year is the $5.25 upland bird stamp required to shoot doves. The stamps are available at DFG offices and sporting goods stores.
SALTWATER--A poor bait situation and a change in water conditions south of the border have chased the tuna away and counts are down significantly on overnight boats. Top fish: a 151-pound bluefin tuna by Roger Nicholas of San Diego aboard the Vagabond.
More locally, calico bass, barracuda, bonito and some yellowtail are catches of the day on half- and three-quarter-day boats.
Cabo San Lucas: Hurricanes have brought rain and wind, and kept boats at bay for one day, but have done little to affect the fishing as marlin flags continue to fly, with boats averaging about one for every two trips out. Tuna and dorado are still abundant. San Jose del Cabo: Average dorado catch is 10-12 per boat per day with fish between 10-30 pounds. Small tuna prevalent and wahoo picking up. Weather has been rough because of the tropical storms. East Cape: Dorado and tuna the primary catches, but blue marlin and sailfish are in the area, according to reports out of hotels Palmas De Cortez and Playa del Sol.
CONSERVATION--The annual North-South billfish tournament, to raise money for a program to enhance the local white seabass fishery, will be held Sept. 11. The tournament pits teams from both halves of California. Proceeds go to Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute to help pay for a hatchery in Carlsbad. Entries must be in by Sept. 1. Details: Jim Paulk at (714) 891-5055.
INSTRUCTION--Free Kids and Parents Fishing program, Thursday at Irvine Lake and Friday at nearby Santa Ana River Lakes, features morning lectures, displays, casting contests and drawings. Details: (714) 649-2996. . . . Introduction to Bass Fishing in Southern California, 7-10 p.m. Sept. 2, 9, 23 and 30, at College of the Canyons. Instructor Ron Cervenka. Cost is $49. Details: (805) 259-7800. . . . Beginning fly tying, by Bob Moyer, Sept. 11 at East Fork Fly Fishing Store. Cost is $50. Details: (714) 724-8840.
MISCELLANY--The DFG has captured small sharks and rays and will transport the creatures to the East Los Angeles Library to put on display for children today at 3:30 p.m. Admission is free. Details: (213) 264-0156.