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FAST `N' FURIOUS WEATHER'S IDEAL AS DOVE HUNTERS PREPARE FOR OPENING OF SEASON.

Byline: Keith Lair Staff Writer

Monrovia's Tom Loy and thousands of fellow dove hunting enthusiasts know the numbers: eight days and counting, 34 percent more birds have been forecast from the previous year and 48 percent more than the average for the past 10 years.

Now, all California shooters need is more cooperation from the weather.

``The shooting is fast and furious,'' said Loy, who will make his traditional trip to the Imperial Valley next week. ``There's nothing like this.''

The state-wide season, which is the traditional bird-hunting opener, begins Friday, Sept. 1 and will continue until Sept. 15. A second 45-day season begins Nov. 11. The bag limit is 10 doves per day in the aggregate, including mourning and white-winged dove, with a total possession limit of 20 birds following two or more days of hunting. Spotted and ringed turtle doves are also allowed, but common ground, ruddy ground and Inca dove are prohibited.

The weather, Department of Fish and Game biologists in Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino counties say, has been nearly ideal. There have been no monsoons, a weather condition with a lot of lightning, high winds and sideways rain, and Imperial County biologist Nancy Andrews says the southeastern corner of the state has had only a few windstorms, but doves have remained in the area.

``We're expecting a good opener,'' Andrews said. ``In some spots, you might get 200 people standing around a field, but there should be plenty of opportunities. It should be the best we've had in a couple of years.''

The biologists credit excellent spring conditions for the upturn in doves. This year's numbers are the best in the past 10 years.

``We had one of our best spring dove counts,'' Andrews said. ``We had quite a few white-wings.''

Doves feed primarily on seeds and grain. They roost in trees or shrub thickets and feed in open scrub areas, usually in the morning and the evening. They are a game bird that needs water every day, too. But when the temperature goes below 70 degrees they usually flee to warmer climes in Mexico or Arizona.

And with the lack of rain and monsoons, dove will likely be found only in irrigated areas this year.

``Good luck looking in the desert,'' Andrews said. ``There's nothing to eat. There's no quail, either. It will be tough.''

Scouting for dove generally can only be done a day or two before the start of the season, Riverside County biologist Gerald Mulcahy says.

``The farmers are pretty cooperative, but you won't know where to hunt until those who do not want hunters post no hunting signs a day or two before the season,'' he said.

Hunters are losing places to shoot, he says, because of the failure to pick up their shells.

``They need to pick up their holes,'' he said. ``If they don't, the farmer's balers pick them up, the farmers sell the bales for feed and the cows eat it and become diseased.''

Here's where biologists expect hunters to have their best shots in Southern California:

Imperial County

Andrews expects the best spots to be in the Valley, where there is wheat fields and its stubble. She says areas along the All American, East Highline and Coachella canals are all excellent. So is the east side of the Salton Sea, especially in the Imperial Wildlife Area.

``At this point, anywhere with seeds is excellent,'' she said. ``You just have to find fields with not too many hunters.''

The area is large and has a lot of farming fields. The All American Canal runs from the Colorado River near Winterhaven 60 miles to the west in El Centro. The East Highline Canal shoots off the All American Canal northeast of Calapatria, and brush zones along the East Mesa, which runs parallel to th canal, about a 50 mile distance.

``We go there every year,'' Loy said. ``There is always a good influx of doves in that area.''

Riverside County

There are generally two hot dove areas, Palo Verdes, just south of Blythe, and the Coachella Valley, between Indio and the Salton Sea.

The melon and wheat fields that have been plowed under are where doves currently are, Mulcahy says.

``Overall, the farmers have been cooperative, but some do post their fields,'' he said. ``But there are still a lot of areas.''

Mulcahy said hunters new to the area will have to scout fields on the Wednesday or Thursday before the opener, and not to expect a hotel room; everything's been booked for nearly a year.

To the west, Andrews says the fields of the Coachella Valley between Indio and Mecca are also very good. Areas between Desert Hot Springs and Indio; the Orocopia Mountains; Dillon Road in the Coachella Valley; Dawson Canyon, south of Lake Mathews; French Valley, south of Winchester; San Jacinto Valley; and the Hemet area, have all yielded dove in the past, DFG biologists say.

San Bernardino County

Dove are not as plentiful as in the other counties, but they're still there, says DFG biologist Andy Pauli.

``Its not the hot spots like down south, but there are good numbers,'' he said.

The best spot may be along the Mojave River, just north of Victorville, but Pauli says most of the fields have posted no hunting signs. Otherwise, Pauli suggests hunters try the fields near Yermo, which is just east of Barstow.

``You might see a lot of doves, but they're just hard to get at,'' he says.

DOVE SEASON

Opens: Sept. 1

Ends: Sept. 15

Limit: 10 doves per day, total of 20 over two or more days

Second Season: Nov. 11 (for 45 days)

Notable: There is a forecast of 34 percent more birds from last year and a 48 percent increase over the past 10 years.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo: (1) After completion of the hunting season, a dove huddles safely into the rough on a golf course in Yuma.

Charles Whitehouse/Associated Press

(2) A marksman takes aim at a dove during the opening day of the hunting season.

Daily News Photo
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 24, 2000
Words:1014
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