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Valley sees 25% more dove hunters

September 01, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

NILAND — Thunderous bangs filled the morning sky as hunters attempted to take down doves during the season's opening day Saturday.

Doves whisked, curved and maneuvered to avoid being hit by shotgun pellets.

Those birds that failed ended up in small bags carried by the hunters that shot them.

In a field southeast of here, doves flew out of trees as hunters waited patiently in a line facing the trees, with the rising sun in the background.

Doves flew from all directions, including from behind the hunters. Those who saw the birds coming had an easy target but occasionally a dove would sneak up behind them.

Some doves, it seemed, dared the hunters as they flew the length of the line. Some doves would make it unscathed while others were being picked off the ground by the hand of a human or the snout of a dog.

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Jack, a 13-month-old cocker spaniel, was one of the few dogs involved in the hunt.

Jack belonged to Rick Bin, 36, of South Pasadena, who was one of the hunters lined up along the trees with his father, brother, uncle and cousin, all of whom have been hunting most of their lives.

"I've been hunting since I was 5 years old," said Rick Bin.

"It's a commodity, it's a wonderful family atmosphere, it's wildlife conservation, it's game management and it's an American tradition," said Bin of dove hunting.

He said he's been participating in the dove hunting season opener in the Imperial Valley for about 31 years.

Bin is a teacher and has his own hunting and camping Web site: www.24hourcampire.com.

Bin and his company were in the fields by about 5:15 a.m. waiting for the shooting time of 5:44 a.m., a half hour before sunrise.

By 6:49 a.m., Bin reached his daily maximum of 10 birds.

He said he loves shooting doves and said it is probably his favorite bird to eat.

"It tastes great medium rare, about a little pink," he said.

Luis Bin, 35, of Riverside, Rick Bin's cousin, said, "The challenge and the outdoor atmosphere" are what he likes about hunting.

Luis Bin also started hunting at age 5 but has been hunting off and on for the last 15 years.

The initial season always opens Sept. 1 and lasts through Sept. 15. The second season starts Nov. 10 and runs through Dec. 24.

This year the season opener is part of Labor Day weekend, which is the case only every few years.

State Fish and Game Warden Lt. Joe Brana said Wednesday wildlife officials expected a large crowd because of the three-day weekend. He said officials expected about one-third to half more hunters than usual for opening day in the Imperial Valley.

On Saturday, Brana said wildlife officials estimated the hunting crowd to be about 25 percent above normal.

"It turned out to be a pretty good morning," said Brana.

"Hunters averaged about seven birds," he said.

He said most of the hunters were concentrated in the Northend of the Imperial Valley, on the outskirts of Niland. Brana said there was a planted field west of Niland that attracted about 200 hunters.

Ron Blancarte of Cerritos and Bernie Renteria of Long Beach, both 43, were among those 200 hunters.

Blancarte and Renteria are fishing and hunting buddies.

For Blancarte, Saturday was his first hunt.

"I like it," he said.

Renteria has been hunting most of his life. He said he would be back next week. Blancarte said he might return, if he can get off of work.

Renteria is a welding inspector while Blancarte is an iron worker.

Renteria had a 6-month-old German short-hair pointer helping him and Blancarte retrieve their downed doves.

Brana said, "I was fairly happy with the season opener. The only thing I wasn't happy about was having four hunter safety accidents."

He said he didn't know the seriousness of the injuries but said most incidents involve someone being sprayed by shotgun pellets.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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