As you read this, the second week of the dove season is about half over. Let’s hope the last couple of days have been far more productive for hunters than the previous week. Opening day was a mixed bag, with some hunters bagging limits and others firing nary a shot.
I spoke with the proud wife of one bird hunter who, along with his partner, put a daily limit of doves on ice. She didn’t know how many shells the two hunters had to shoot to bag that many birds, but she said they started their day near Searchlight and hunted their way to Mesquite. Based on our conversation, I would say this hunter was even luckier when it came to finding his wife. Not only was she aware of how well his hunt had gone, but she also went along for the ride.
At the Overton Wildlife Management Area, hunters averaged just fewer than six birds per hunter on opening day. In the days that followed, shooting action dropped dramatically. On the first full weekend of the season, hunters checked in fewer than 40 birds. Reader Jon Dorsey wasn’t too happy about his Sunday hunt. He wrote in an e-mail: “Conditions went from poor to laughable. So I started asking other hunters, ‘Why do they keep coming out there?’ “
One Overton staff member told me he couldn’t understand why the birds weren’t there yet, because the management area has everything they need. My belief is the birds most of us hunt in the early part of the season are resident birds, then as the first storms of September hit Southern Nevada, those birds head south.
Hunting also was slow at the Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area in Hiko. Area manager Ron Mills told me the opening week was slow from beginning to end, and he has yet to see many birds. If the past is any indication, hunters will experience some of the management area’s best dove hunting in the next couple of weeks. That’s when Mills expects large flights of the birds to come in from the north.
Another factor in dove hunting success is the availability of food. This year, the sunflower crop is behind schedule because of our extended spring weather, Mills said.
“The sunflowers aren’t mature yet. But in another week or two, 60 percent to 70 percent of the sunflowers will be mature. It’s the sunflowers that really attract the doves,” he said.
Further north at the Kirch Wildlife Management Area, hunters outnumbered the birds on opening day, but conditions are expected to improve in the next week or so. The rain that fell in Southern Nevada this week is sure to shake things up a bit and spread doves as they use natural and man-made water sources.
A good place to look for the birds is around old stock tanks or corrals where water troughs will collect and hold water. You also might check the edges of ordinarily dry lake beds for places where rainwater might have collected.
• USER CONFLICTS — While in college, I published a paper about managing user conflicts on public lands. The paper’s focal point was the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the challenge of managing an area where there are so many competing recreational interests.
To say the least, it’s a headache, and similar conflicts might be coming to other parts of the state as increased restrictions on off-highway vehicle travel in Clark County have off-road enthusiasts looking for somewhere else to play. And some of them are heading to Lincoln County — during hunting season.
Hunters with tags in units 223, 231, 241, 242 and 271 should note that the Best in the Desert Silver State 300 off-road race is scheduled to take place in those units Sept. 27. The 300-mile race will begin in Alamo and wind its way northeast toward Pioche. After crossing U.S. Highway 93, the course will turn south and finish north of Interstate 15, just west of Mesquite. A pre-race reconnaissance run will take place Saturday and Sunday.
There will be no official road closures associated with this race, but the increase in human activity combined with loud vehicles undoubtedly will have an impact on the hunting in areas surrounding the race course. Patience will be required among members of both interest groups.
Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is published Thursday. He can be reached at email@example.com.