BRAWLEY — When Eurasian collared doves began arriving in Southern California nearly a decade ago, hunters didn’t know what to make of them. These doves were pigeon-sized critters that mixed into the dove population quickly and in big numbers.
In fact, the numbers have increased so much in Southern California that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has finally changed its regulations to match the hatch. Starting Sept. 1, Eurasian collared doves may be taken year round with no limit on the take. It’s one of many key changes in upland and waterfowl regulations for the upcoming hunting season.
Scott Gardner, upland game program manager for the state, said enforcement issues were a key reason the state didn’t go to the regulation earlier. Arizona led the way on this years ago.
“These Eurasian collared doves have really expanded their range,” Gardner said. “Our biggest concern is that they’re impacting native mourning doves. There’s no real scientific evidence to determine this, but we’re doing this change in Imperial County on a trial basis.”
Gardner said the fact these doves act more like pigeons and tend to gather in large flocks around buildings or power lines presented a problem. Hunters need to make sure they’re not too close to inhabited buildings when hunting them. The other issue is they may be mistaken for mourning or white-winged doves, although their larger size, cream-collared plumage and black-ringed neck separate them from the other doves.
Leon Lesicka, founder of Desert Wildlife Unlimited in Brawley, said it’s about time DFW changed its regulation regarding the invasive Eurasian doves. Lesicka has never bought the game wardens’ reasoning behind the enforcement issue regarding the big doves.
“I’ve heard a few game wardens say enforcement would be a problem if the regs were changed, but I don’t agree with that,” Lesicka said. “Whatever the law says, hunters need to abide by it. If it says you can’t shoot mourning doves and only Eurasians, don’t shoot the mourning doves. What do we have game wardens for? If a hunter breaks the law, they get a ticket.”
Lesicka said the Desert Wildlife-DFW upland game fields have been loaded with doves in recent weeks. He predicted a very good opener, provided the monsoonal storms stay away from Imperial Valley.
The other key changes this fall for hunters include:
The possession limit for most upland game birds and waterfowl has been increased from double the daily limit to triple. For instance, if you hunt doves three straight days, you’re not permitted to have 30 doves in possession and all the Eurasians you can shoot.
The regulation applies to waterfowl, band-tailed pigeons, doves, snipe, pheasants, quail sooty/ruffed grouse and chukar. It does not apply to wild turkey or ptarmigan.
DFW added an early-season archery hunt for pheasants to give archers some early stalks on un-pressured pheasants. It opens Oct. 12 and goes to Nov. 3. Gardner said archers have been asking for this for years. It gives them a chance to get in the field before shotgun hunters and dogs have chased them daily.
“We’d rather have them out there earlier than later because once it gets later in the year, the birds are that much closer to breeding,” Gardner said.