Rainbow trout had just been stocked into the little pond at Dave White Regional Park in Casa Grande, Ariz. For the first time. Some good dove hunting is also in Casa Grande.
Trout and dove for dinner?
On Friday, Jan. 8 — just a few days before dove season ended — I set out from Phoenix to this 1-acre pond in Casa Grande, an hour from Tucson, about 1 1/2 hours from Phoenix, and the newest addition to the Community Fishing Program.
Another cast and blast. One of the best ways to combine adventure with solitude and a bit of strategy. And maybe even some wild vittles.
As a relative newbie to the blasting side, I would be “winging it.” (Bad pun, but you get what I mean.) The idea was to catch a quick 2-trout limit from the pond during the early afternoon, hopefully find a local to put me on a nearby dove hole, catch the sundown flights, and get home in time for a freshly “caught-and-shot” meal.
Quail season ends Sunday, Feb. 7, and there are good quail populations in this unit, so although dove season is over until next fall, a hook and bullet trip is still a way to enjoy scenes from water and desert.
Hot trout bite at Dave White Regional Park Pond in Casa Grande
A trout bit within 10 minutes — the first got off on a black-and-silver rooster tail, but the next two, running about 10 and 15 inches respectively, took a nightcrawler and corn PowerBait, both on gold No. 12 hooks.
A hook was tied to a 4-pound monofilament leader with a small split-shot (2 feet up from the hook) and 8-pound mono backing on a medium-action spinning outfit. (Tied with uni and, for the backing-to-leader connection, double-uni knots.)
Confusing? Check out our Fishing Basics page.
Quote of the day from a lady: “Are you testing the fish?”
Hadn’t thought of that. “Yeah … I guess you’re right. I’m a fish-tester.”
Anyway, these were some pretty big stocker trout:
For the record — sometimes talking to strangers pays off. (Sorry, Mom.) An employee from the city of Casa Grande, who also keeps the pond in great condition, was generous enough to point me to a nearby agriculture field with rows of mesquites where dove often choose to roost. And fly circles above a wandering shotgun barrel.
Arizona dove hunting: fast, furious, fun
This is the “winging it” part. Maybe some other beginning wing-shooters can relate or learn from this experience, similar to my first cast and blast adventure at Bartlett Lake.
Around 3 p.m., dove sightings are few …
The next couple hours require flushing and chasing with a 12-gauge Savage pump shotgun. A few doves flash their wings and seem to stay just outside the ideal range of 15-40 yards for the 7.5-shot, 12-gauge ammo.
Sunset comes, and a pair of quail had baited me into chasing far from the truck, and the roost-worthy mesquites. Heading back, the dove flights pick up. Two mourning doves are in the vest as the sun spits a pink hue on jagged clouds. Doves cruise from left and right and overhead, barely giving their short, chirping warnings before erratically dipping and rising into a dim sky. Turn, aim, blast … and hope for a diving dove.
The pace quickens. Doves sprinkling onto mesquites like salt onto steak. Adapt to their behavior. No use in spotting a take-off. Walk through open areas a couple dozen yards from the mesquites, and look for open pockets where dove could be shot and responsibly retrieved. Yip-yip-yip … and a head turn and the doves are distant blips.
Late afternoon, dry and cool enough to show puffs of breath, smelling of cold dirt and occasional gun powder smoke. Still-desert sounds — a pulse beating in the ears and lungs belching air. From 3 hours of hiking with gear and stalking prey. A sudden influx of doves makes the heart sprint. Aiming at those beating, wayward wings. Sunset shots.
A few more doves make their way into the vest, and it cost this hunter a little more than a box of ammo. Legal shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Hunt over. Cheers to the doves — this was every bit of fair chase. Or maybe, for the hunter, unfair chase.
How to eat healthy, wild, fresh
But still it was enough for the first night’s dinner — dove and trout (tossed in a combination of bread crumbs, white corn meal, garlic salt, basil and a little cayenne pepper and sautéed in coconut oil) with homemade broccoli mac ‘n cheese.
Refer back to our Fishing Basics page for filleting and preparing trout.
Easy to prep after a tiring trip, and excellent table fare:
And the next night’s, shredded dove burritos, enchilada-style (dove sautéed in coconut oil with a pinch of cayenne pepper, rolled with refried black beans in a flour tortilla, topped with cheese, green chili and some shredded mixed greens and sour cream):
In this author’s humble opinion, no better way to eat.
New to hunting and fishing in Arizona? Join the club
A few ideas from a beginning “cast-and-blaster”:
- This type of cast and blast was simple because, by going to a pond and to a nearby field, full equipment didn’t need to be lugged around for one trip. Fish, put the rods and bait away, chuck the fish in the ice chest, drive to the dove spot, strap on the hunting gear and keep the fun going. Easy.
- A hunting and fishing combination license and a $5 migratory bird stamp take care of all your license requirements in one pop and helps conserve wildlife for future generations.
- The book “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game” written by our own Watchable Wildlife Program Manager Randall D. Babb, has helped me with the knowledge needed to find, harvest and prepare the small game. My mentor. (Not Randy, necessarily, but he has given me some great tips.) Our publications are sold at all offices of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Or go online and download an order form. Best way to get started if you can’t find a mentor: read it and do it.
- The best kept secret in Arizona is hunting and fishing in a state diverse in wildlife and habitat. And even without a meal to end the day, there are still sights and solitude and adventure and camaraderie.The memories can’t fully be described in a blog.
- One last suggestion: go.