Dove Season Likely to Open Friday
September 6, 2004. By Chris Andrews. Lansing
Julie Baker, of the Committee to Restore the Dove Hunting Ban, is eager to get petitions collected to make this dove hunting season the last.
The Natural Resources Commission meets Thursday and is expected to officially approve the hunting season to begin on Friday.
Hunting will be allowed during a three-year trial period in six counties: Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, Branch, Hillsdale and Lenawee.
Sharp, a Sunfield resident who has hunted mourning doves in other states, plans to test his skills in St. Joseph County on Saturday. He said he hopes to take his 16-year-old daughter later in the season."It's not nearly as strenuous as grouse and woodcock hunting, where you really have to beat the bush," said Sharp, regional director of the National Wild Turkey Federation. "You can sit out there with your hot dog and just wait for the birds to fly on by."
Hunters say they like the challenge mourning doves provide as they dart through the sky.
But critics feel passionately that the hunting season will bring a senseless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of gentle songbirds that Michigan residents have enjoyed in their back yards for generations. They are confident they will collect the 158,000 valid signatures for a referendum that would suspend the law and let voters decide the question in 2006.
"The interest is so high that we will not have to pay for petitions," said Baker, campaign manager for the drive. "We cannot keep up; there are so many people who are willing to collect."
The two sides have battled for years. Advocates of the hunting season prevailed when Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a measure adding mourning doves to the list of game species. That gives the Natural Resources Commission the authority to establish the season. Granholm, who earlier had promised to veto any such legislation, signed the measure after getting an agreement that the season would be limited to six counties in a three-year trial period.
Alan Stewart, upland game bird specialist for the Department of Natural Resources, said there is no indication that the season will significantly reduce the mourning dove population."Forty other states allow dove hunting, and doves remain the most abundant and widely distributed bird out there," Stewart said.
State Rep. Susan Tabor, who sponsored the law, said she plans to try her luck in Branch County, hunting with friends who helped her get the measure enacted. "There really is no reason out there not to hunt doves, other than there are some people out there who don't want us to," Tabor said. "We can have our hunting season, and I guarantee the bird-watchers, including myself, will still see the mourning doves at the feeder."
But opponents of dove hunting say the door is now open for a permanent statewide season.
The Committee to Restore the Dove Shooting Ban has been collecting signatures for about two weeks. Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, will be in Michigan this week to help with programs to train signature gatherers. Training sessions begin in Ann Arbor.
- Songbird Protection Coalition