Hunter numbers down for the season opener


Active Member
Jan 6, 2011
San Diego
By Ed Zieralski, Reporter - Outdoors & horse racing

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.

El Centro — Depending on where hunters shot, dove numbers were down in many areas of Imperial Valley Thursday for the traditional opening of hunting season in California and around the country.

Not only were dove concentrations hard to find, but there weren’t as many hunters shooting them. Those who stayed away missed a cool, clear morning in the low 80s for shooting. Hunters who scouted or had access to private fields had success.

Corey Sanden of Crest put away his fishing rod and reel and switched to a brand new Beretta shotgun for his first opener in 20 years. Sanden, hunting the edges of a couple of corn and wheat fields west of Brawley near the Salton Sea , said he tried to be selective early and wait for bigger and fatter white-winged doves. He hit the first bird he shot at, a mourning dove, but in trying to be picky he never did get a whitewing in his sights all morning. He settled for a bag of mourning doves and a few Eurasians.

Fish and Game commissioner Dan Richards of Upland, and his nephew, Eric Miller, both shot a mixed bag of doves that included mourning, white-winged and Eurasians. Their host, Myron Fortin of Brawley, hunting with Brad Lucky of Brawley, also shot limits of birds at the same field.

Leon Lesicka, founder of Desert Wildlife Unlimited and creator of the Upland Game Bird fields in the northeast section of the valley, said he counted under 1,700 hunters on those fields.

“Our best was 4,000 when the opener was on a Saturday,” Lesicka said. “But this is an all-time low. I didn’t see hardly any youth hunters out.”

Capt. Angel Raton, a game warden with the Department of Fish and Game, agreed with Lesicka. Normally game wardens are busy with over-limit cases on opening day, but not this year.

“It was slow all the way around,” Raton said. “I only checked a few guys with 10 birds. The birds were really scattered this year. The pressure is down, probably because it’s a Thursday opener. We had a few minor violations for not having Upland Game Bird stamps, but it was slow for us, too.”

Joe Brana, retired game warden and shooting his first opener in 31 years, shot with the Steve Bishop group and had very good shooting on a private field in South El Centro.

Hunters stayed out longer to make it happen. On a drive through the Vacation Inn parking lot, the cleaning table had 16 hunters cleaning birds at 10 a.m. Later, another group gathered at 1:30 p.m., and by then, it was 120 degrees out.

DFG wildlife biologist Karen Fothergill, fresh from a tuna trip aboard the Bright and Morning Star out of H&M Landing, checked hundreds of hunters in the Niland area. She’s been collecting wings for a study on the migration of doves.

“Shooting was awesome over this way,” Fothergill said of the Niland area. “I saw a lot of limits and a lot of happy people. But the sad thing is I only saw three juniors.”

Fothergill said she counted mostly mourning doves, but she did check three Eurasian collared doves and 18 white-winged doves in hunter’s bags.

Fothergill said she managed a limit prior to collecting wings and checking hunters.

By Ed Zieralski, Reporter - Outdoors & horse racing

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.

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