Challenge Deadline Passes, No Challenge
Published May 20, 2005. By Stacey
Range, Lansing State Journal
A key step in one of the state's most emotional debates passed Thursday without a peep - or in this case, a coo.
The 5 p.m. deadline for a challenge to petitions submitted by mourning dove lovers came and went in silence, leaving little obstacle to putting a measure restoring a ban on hunting the birds on the November 2006 election ballot.
"This is great," said Julie Baker, leader of the Committee to Restore the Dove Shooting Ban. "The campaign is gaining support, and we're ready to go."
The absence of a challenge to keep the issue off the ballot came as a blow to many sportsmen who last fall enjoyed their first dove hunting season in Michigan in 99 years.
"I wish we would have found something (to challenge), but we didn't," said Sam Washington, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, which had staffers scour petitions for irregularities.
Baker's group in March gave state election officials 275,363 signatures of Michigan voters - about 73 percent more than needed to get the issue on the 2006 ballot.
The group needs 158,879 valid signatures to qualify its referendum, which would allow voters to decide whether Michigan hunters should have the right to shoot the small, gray birds known for their mournful coo.
The only barrier remaining is the State Board of Canvassers, which must certify the petitions by June 11.
Certification would put the issue on the ballot and suspend mourning dove hunts for this fall and 2006. It also sets the stage for what's expected to be a spirited campaign.
Dove hunt opponents say hunters have enough game in Michigan, and they want to protect the bird.
Supporters say the birds are tasty and are a challenging target. They point to the 40 other states that allow dove hunting.
- Songbird Protection Coalition