Results have been a mixed bag since the mourning dove season began almost two weeks ago.
Opening weekend provided good hunting for resident birds in localized areas such as the Overton Wildlife Management Area and Moapa Valley, but in other places hunters weren’t so lucky.
In the Pahranagat Valley, there have been enough birds to keep the active hunter busy, but hunters have yet to see a significant influx of migrating birds. It simply has been too hot, not only in Southern Nevada but also at points farther north.
On a recent visit to the Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area, I observed doves flying in and out of sunflower fields but in small numbers. Three or four birds here or there. For the time being, the standard practice of using cover to hide and wait for the birds to fly within shooting range isn’t going to yield many birds on the management area. Not until the migration starts in earnest anyway.
Migrating doves need a little nudge from a weather front to push them our direction. Until temperatures drop for good in Southern Nevada and foul weather hits in places such as Washington, northern Idaho and even Canada, doves aren’t going to be in a hurry to start flying in our direction.
In the meantime, I think an active hunter will be able to walk up enough birds at Key Pittman and Overton to make a meal. Other places where you might be able to walk up a few birds include sagebrush filled washes in the central part of the state and stands of mesquite trees in the south.
While the delayed dove migration might be frustrating now, it can mean good hunting in less crowded conditions in another week or two. By the time the doves begin migrating in our direction, other hunting seasons will have many hunters focusing their efforts elsewhere.
Keep in mind that doves don’t migrate in one large group but in successive flights of birds. That means you might find birds one day and not the next. Then, after a day or two, another flight will arrive.
Keep in mind that doves need three things: a place to roost, water and a food source. They also prefer to fly along some type of structure, such as a tree line, power line or even the edge of cliff face.
Along with impacting the dove migration and thus the dove hunt, the extended summer temperatures are going to limit hunting opportunities during the waterfowl season.
According to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lower than normal water levels on the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge are expected to reduce the number of waterfowl using the popular hunting destination this fall.
“We have had two years of extremely dry conditions, resulting in a deficit of available water in our marshes and extremely low fall water levels,” said Rob Vinson, manager of the Pahranagat NWR. “We are doing everything we can to augment the shortage by moving water around the refuge, but fall hunting conditions will likely be very poor due to the hot summers and below normal precipitation.”
If that proves to be the case and habitat on the refuge remains limited, perhaps the number of migrating waterfowl using the Key Pittman WMA a few miles to the north will increase. If so, the loss of opportunity at one end of Pahranagat Valley could improve your chances at the other. It’s something to keep in mind as you start making plans.
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 NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.