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Doves galore

OUTDOOR TALES:

August 23, 2001|By AL KALIN, Special to this newspaper

Dove season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 15. The split season will reopen Nov. 10 and continue through Dec. 24.

Limits for mourning doves, white-winged doves, spotted doves and ringed turtle doves is 10 birds in aggregate.

Hunting is allowed from a half hour before sunrise to sunset. On Sept. 1 the legal hunting time is 5:44 a.m. until 7:05 p.m.

When cleaning your doves be sure you leave one fully feathered wing attached. After the opening day you are allowed to have 20 doves in your possession.

The cost of a hunting license is $29.95 plus $6.30 for an upland game bird stamp, for a total of $36.25. Be sure the licensing agent attaches the free "harvest information survey stamp" to your license or you could get a ticket if it is missing when checked by a warden in the field.

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Finally, don't forget to memorize the official law enforcement philosophy of the California Department of Fish & Game:

"It is the philosophy of the law enforcement office to take strict enforcement action against those who destroy resources or who knowingly violate any wildlife law or regulation. Those who unknowingly or unintentionally violate nonresource related sections should be educated rather than cited."

"Wardens are friends of true sportsmen and should reflect that feeling in their attitude and image without sacrificing safety. All our actions should foster sportsmanship and love of the outdoors mingled with intolerance for those who steal resources."

Wouldn't it be cool if every hunter in the field, while being checked on opening day, chanted the enforcement philosophy like a zombie.

The reason I am telling you this information is because you will be checked by a game warden if you hunt on the new massive free access hunting area that contains the largest concentration of doves in recent history.

Leon Lesicka, of Brawley, well-known for helping clean up the New River and saving the desert bighorn sheep and mule deer, has just completed yet another project that undoubtedly will directly benefit the economy of the Imperial Valley.

What Lesicka wanted to create was a high population of doves in our valley that would bring thousands of dove hunters back to our area for the opener of dove season and give a needed boost to our economy.

Lesicka, and members of the group he founded, Desert Wildlife Unlimited, started with monetary donations from the Imperial County Fish & Game Commission and $40,000 from the California Fish & Game wildlife heritage program. Seven hundred acres of rent-free land in the Niland area was donated by U.S. Filter, CalEnergy, Norm Wuytens of Brawley and Marlin Medearis of Westmorland. The group purchased seed, and with the help of farm equipment donated by DWU president Johnny Gibson, created a 700-acre dove habitat that state wildlife specialists could only dream about.

With hunter access to private lands diminishing yearly, this new 700-acre area, open to all hunters free of charge, should be an instant hit on opening day of dove season. What makes the area even more attractive is hundreds of acres of citrus groves nearby. While the groves are off limits to hunters, they certainly aren't for the doves, which use the dense trees for roosting.

Touring the area with Lesicka recently, every field we checked was crawling with the gray birds as they fed on wheat and safflower. Each field had been planted in strips with five to 10 acres of grain and the birds lifted in gray clouds as we drove through the food plots, only to circle back and resume feeding. In the bare strips of each field and around the perimeters, thousands of doves could be seen resting in the shade of the weeds while digesting their dinner.

Curt Taucher, California Fish & Game regional director, is so impressed with what Lesicka and his friends have accomplished he has pledged to double the game bird heritage funding for next year. This means the area could grow to 1,500 acres of food plots for next season.

When I asked Leon Lesicka why he has put so much effort into this project, he told me he enjoys working just as hard with all his projects.

"My whole life I have enjoyed hunting," Lesicka said, "so whenever I can put something back for the future generation to enjoy, it gives me a good feeling."

"Thirty years ago," Lesicka explained, "the opener of dove season was one of the most important events of the year for our local economy. It would be nice to see that happen again."

For hunters wanting to shoot the free access game bird heritage plots, the locations are listed on the attached chart.

In addition to the game bird heritage plots, the Wister and Finney-Ramer recreational areas have planted food plots and will be open to dove hunters free of charge. The hunting area on the Finney Unit next to Rutherford Road and across the street from Wiest Lake will be limited to the first 125 hunters who sign up opening morning.

Outdoor Tales columnist Al Kalin may be reached by e-mail at akalin@quix.net

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