Scattered. Patience. Those are the two key words Utah dove hunters will need to keep in mind when they go afield Friday for the opening of the 1995 mourning dove season.
The heavy snowfall this past winter and the wet spring have resulted in an abundance of water . . . and dove tend to hang out around water.Which simply means that the birds won't be concentrated this year. Hunters got used to flocks of birds during the drought years, when the birds had few good watering holes. This year the birds will be scattered, and to get to them hunters will need to do some looking.
The wet spring caused another problem - low production in the field. According to early reports, the 1995 mourning dove breeding population was down 39 percent this past spring.
The upside, reports Dean Mitchell, upland game biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, is that dove will nest two to three times during the summer.
Field officers, in fact, have reported seeing more birds showing up in popular hunting areas in the past few weeks.
Still, this year's hunt is only expected to be satisfactory.
Dove, being a migratory bird, have already begun to get restless despite the fact the weather is still hot.
Mitchell says the shorter daylight hours have as much to do with triggering the migration south as does the weather.
And because the birds move south when they begin their flights, he suggests hunters consider following them into southern hunting areas, such as southwestern Utah, Emery and San Jan counties.
The season will run through Sept. 30. The limit is 10 birds. This year hunters will need to have in their possession a small game or combination license as well as an upland game stamp. Next year the license structure will change, and hunters will need to buy a habitat stamp at the onset, then purchase the small game license.
Also opening Friday will be the band-tail pigeon hunt. Few hunters actually go after the pigeons. Hunters will find the birds in the coniferous forests in the southern part of the state. Some birds, however, have been seen in the Central Region.
Pigeon hunters are not required to purchase a habitat stamp, but they must stop by one of the DWR offices to pick up a free permit and information packet.
Other upland game hunting seasons will begin to open on Sept. 9.