WI Utility Warns Shooters
Published August 11, 2003, The
In case you missed it, Wisconsin's goofy mourning dove saga just got a little goofier.
As this paper reported last week, a state utility company is warning hunters who participate in the state's first mourning dove season scheduled to begin Sept. 1 not to shoot at birds perched on power lines - which, as we all know, is one of the spots where mourning doves like to kick back and savor their relatively brief lives.
Should gunshots hit a power line, the Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp. advised, it could cause all sorts of costly and/or dangerous problems - from the disruption of electric service to personal injury and even death.
Well, I don't know about you, but the first image that pops into my mind is Elmer Fudd blasting away at Tweety. (Yeah, I know Tweety's a canary, but considering the mentality of some hunters these days, who knows what they'll go after?)
This is assuming, of course, that there actually is a mourning dove hunting season this year.
After three years of contentious debate, the state Department of Natural Resources has been assuring the mourning dove warriors that the season will, in fact, begin Sept. 1 and run through October.
But the Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves has filed a lawsuit, now before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, to stop the hunt. And John Wieneke, the group's president, is confident the court will issue a temporary injunction in the next week or so that will put the hunt on hold until the court rules on the lawsuit later this year.
(Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser issued a temporary injunction blocking the hunt just days before the season was to start in September 2001. The 4th District Court of Appeals lifted that injunction last March.)
Wieneke says he's confident because he believes the group's position is grounded in sound logic. Namely, that in creating a dove hunting season, the DNR usurped the authority of the Legislature, which decided in 1971 that it didn't make sense to allow citizens to gun down the state's symbol of peace.
But if it turns out Wieneke is wrong and the hunt is allowed to go on, the utility's concerns are legitimate, Wieneke says. Because many hunters will quickly discover that hunting mourning doves can be downright boring, he says.
"So after a while, they'll probably resort to jump hunting - moving through habitat trying to flush the birds out - and road hunting, which is where the wires come in and where the accidents will happen. And it's where the kestrels and the killdeer and similar-size birds are going to be shot."
Of course, the mourning dove warriors would like you to believe that the 58-year-old Wieneke - who grew up in Mazomanie but now lives in New London - is one of those touchy-feely, anti-hunting types who doesn't know what he's talking about.
However, not only does Wieneke have a vast knowledge of ornithology, he's an avid hunter who can fondly recall getting his first BB gun from his grandpa when he was 10.
It's just that he doesn't find it much of a challenge, he says, to hunt a small, gentle bird that spends much of its life cooing back and forth with its mate.
"It's ridiculous. These birds are backyard feeders. They're song birds. The ones in the city are very tolerant of people," says Wieneke, who remains intensely involved in the debate even though he's battling pancreatic cancer.
Crazier yet, he says, the majority of the migrating population will already have left the state by Sept. 1.
"They'll be on their way to Texas and Mexico."
But wait a minute. What about the argument that roasted mourning doves make for an extremely tasty meal, as Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud, R-Eastman, insisted while hosting a mourning dove feast in his Capitol office several years ago?
Another crock, Wieneke says.
"The DNR has come right out and said that dove hunters will average five birds for the season. Well, a single bird (has) about 1 ounce (of meat). So if the average hunter gets five of them, that's comparable to about a six-pack of McNuggets."
And when hunters come to that realization, Wieneke says, it doesn't take a genius to figure what's going to happen.
"Those little breasts are going to be thrown into the freezer," he says. "And two or three years from now, they're going to be thrown out."
So, yes, it is a goofy situation, Wieneke says - goofy and a little bit sad.
"There's no other way to describe it."
- Songbird Protection Coalition