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02
Public hunt here could be lovey dovey

Jeffrey Gautreaux Sun Staff Writer
Jul 31, 2004

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A local nonprofit wildlife habitat group is working on a project to offer a public dove hunt near Yuma.

The Southwest Arizona Habitat Partnership Committee (HPC) voted Thursday night to go forward with a plan to organize a hunt on 160 acres of land owned by farmer Clint Curry.

The land, near County 12 and Avenue F, would be donated for use on the first few days of dove season, which starts Sept. 1.

Jeffrey Gautreaux can be reached at jgautreaux@yumasun.com or 539-6858.
"We want a safe hunt and a high-quality hunt," said Ben Brochu, Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife specialist and HPC co-chair.

Brochu presented information about the project to HPC members during the meeting, which was held at the Arizona Game and Fish Department office.

HPC's goal is to promote sustainable wildlife recreation opportunities by promoting habitat enhancement through partnerships and to encourage economic development and better understanding of the value of wildlife resources.

Brochu said the preliminary plan was to offer 100 permits for hunting on the property each day. The price for the special permit would decrease with each succeeding day after the opening of the season.

"The fields will be left fallow after the harvest," Brochu said. "This will leave standing grain and should provide an excellent hunt."

Those at the meeting emphasized the importance of safety. Marked hunting spots and a check-in and check-out station were suggested to ensure that there were no accidents.

Because HPC is incorporated as a nonprofit organization, it has limited liability and limited funds for which it could be sued. Also because of the nonprofit designation, HPC officials said the permit costs paid by hunters would be tax-deductible.

"They're not going just to buy a chance to go hunting," said Larry Voyles, Region IV supervisor of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. "But they're buying a quality hunt and giving something back."

Another project that HPC is considering is the creation of dedicated permanent dove forage plots.

"We're losing high quality forage and habitat when doves need it most," Brochu said. "We'd like to establish dove forage plots throughout the valley. We want to establish permanent dove fields that would remain fallow."

Brochu said HPC hopes to find farmers that are willing to set aside land, and HPC would pay for the costs of seed and irrigation.

"If we can get some landowners just with small sections, we can provide a lot of high-quality habitat," Brochu said.

Richard Sprague, owner of Sprague's Sports and RV Inc. and an HPC member, said a similar program has been in operation in the Imperial Valley for some time.

"They saw the need to re-establish the dove hunt, and they got a grant to do it," Sprague said. "They've got it to the point where they have maps, so they can show hunters where the plots are."

Sprague said his business has not seen a dropoff in activity at the start of dove season, but he knows that the dove population in the area has gone down.

He said the decrease in the dove limits — a total of 10 birds per hunter — is a clear sign that the hunt is not as strong as it once was.

"This area is getting de- veloped like crazy, and the birds are used to being here," he said. "It's our responsibility to replace that and bring it back to where it was."

Brochu said the two HPC projects could work hand in hand because funds from the dove hunt could be used to purchase water and seed for the plots.

Sprague said farmers who offer land for hunting could be compensated, but there are many who are interested in donating to the program.

"All farmers are businessmen, but we have a lot of guys who grew up hunting and fishing," Sprague said. "It's a wholesome activity, and they want to see it maintained."

Sprague said revitalizing the dove hunt would also be an economic boost to Yuma.

Thursday the HPC board asked for volunteers to sign up to work on the dove hunt project. HPC is scheduled to meet again Aug. 19 at 6:30 p.m.

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