The busiest hunting day in central California arrives Thursday when thousands of hunters are expected to be on the prowl on the first day of dove season.
And with this year’s El Niño bringing extra moisture to our drought-ridden state, conditions are looking the best in four years, according to wildlife officials.
“The crops are in much better shape and look better than they have in the last three years for the dove opener,” said Bill Cook, manager at the Los Banos Wildlife Area.
Hunters without reservations for Los Banos can enter a lottery from 6-9 p.m. on Wednesday to win one of 100 lottery spots.
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The lottery determines who can enter the wildlife area first after reservations. Reservations are valid until one hour prior to shoot time. After that, the wildlife area will fill in with walk-up hunters. Beginning at noon, hunters will be able to sign in and enter on their own, Cook said.
In rural areas, hunters must be at least 150 yards away from homes or barns and 200 yards from any artificial water source for wildlife. A no-shoot zone extends around the Fresno-Clovis city borders, and across Fresno County it’s illegal to shoot a firearm within a quarter-mile of any incorporated city.
Shoot time for doves is one half-hour before sunrise to sunset. First shoot is 6:01 a.m. Thursday. The season runs two weeks until Sept. 15 and a second hunt period runs Nov. 12 to Dec. 26.
The daily bag limit remains 15 doves, mourning and white-winged, up to 10 of which may be white-winged.
Possession limit remains triple the daily bag limit, with hunters to have 45 birds in possession (no more than 30 white-winged). There are no limits on spotted dove and ring-turtle doves. The non-native Eurasian collared dove can be hunted year-round with no limits. Hunters who encounter a banded bird are asked to report it to the USGS Bird Banding Lab (www.reportband.gov).
Laws and regulations to follow
- All hunters – including junior hunters – are required to carry their hunting license with them and have an upland game bird stamp (if 18 or older)
- No trespassing. Hunters must have written permission from the landowner prior to hunting on private land
- Bag limits apply to each hunter and no one can take more than one legal limit per day
- It is illegal to shoot from or across a public roadway