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Look for doves to hang around longer because of dry climate

Updated August 28, 2019 - 3:14 pm

Sunny and hot. That’s what the National Weather Service forecast says we can expect in Southern Nevada through the Labor Day weekend and for the first few days of the annual mourning dove hunting season.

While high temperatures are not unusual this time of year, it is what’s missing from that forecast that is.

Historically, a wet monsoonal weather front passes through Southern Nevada every year in the days leading up to the dove opener. The storm does two things. First, it fills natural water tanks in the desert that will spread migrating doves over the landscape. And second, it pushes local birds and early migrators farther south.

Without that storm, the birds are likely to hang around and water is going to be key to finding them. But something else to consider are the high daytime temperatures we are experiencing. Not only in Southern Nevada but also farther north.

A quick check of the weather reports to the north show that hunters can expect highs in the 90s through the weekend in Northern Nevada, and similar temperatures are expected in Central Idaho.

Usually, the annual dove migration is triggered in part by a sudden drop in temperature. With mild temperatures holding on in the northern climes, the birds may choose to stay in those areas until the temperatures finally drop. If that happens, Nevada hunters will be hunting primarily local birds for the opener. But that also means hunters will be able find good hunting later in September and into early October as migrating birds eventually make their way south.

For some hunters, the dove opener is a one-and-done kind of thing. In other words, they hunt on opening day, then shift their attention to something else. That is even more common if the number of migrating birds is low that day, but that’s good news for the dedicated bird hunter who will make multiple trips to the field no matter what.

As the lengthy season progresses, that hunter will find limited competition at available dove hunting destinations and eventually an increase in bird numbers. Both of which translate into an excellent hunting experience.

Ron Mills, a former manager at the Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area in Hiko, once told me the best dove hunting in the area took place in mid-September or later. Bird numbers were up, and hunter numbers were down.

Because opening day temperatures are expected to be hot, be sure to go prepared with plenty of water and sports drinks. If you hunt with a dog, make sure it has plenty of water. Not only will that protect its health, but it also will help the dog perform at its best. My dogs always seemed to lose their sense of smell if they didn’t stay hydrated.

Hot temperatures make attentive game care essential. Failure to cool your birds down in a timely fashion will cost you a meal. The key is keeping them clean, cool and dry. Keep in mind that even these small birds can store a lot of heat, especially if they are packed together in the game pocket of your vest.

You can begin the cooling process in the field by simply removing a bird’s entrails before placing it in your vest. They store a lot of heat. Then, when you get back to your vehicle, you can place the birds in a clean plastic bag before placing them in your cooler. I would take the time to get rid of the feathers by removing the breast, which is the only part of the bird large enough for eating. You can pluck the bird if you want, but that is an experience in frustration because the feathers will stick to your hands.

Obviously, you will want ice in your cooler, but you also want to keep your birds dry. One way to do that is use milk jugs or a similar container that has a twist cap that seals tightly when closed. Fill the container with water and freeze it, but be sure to leave enough room for the water to expand as it freezes.

The ice will melt, but it won’t fill your cooler with water.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the department. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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