Dove-hunt bill has pros, cons
September 7,2003 - By Ron St.
Germain, Outdoor Writer, Lansing State Journal
In plain view: This strategically placed billboard, on Larch near Grand River Avenue, is one way opponents of the dove hunting bill are fighting the issue. But the billboard may be misleading. The white dove, not the mourning dove is a traditional sign of peace.
[[[ SPC NOTE: Actually...the mourning dove is known as Michigan's BIRD OF PEACE! ]]]
House bill 5029, which would allow hunters to harvest mourning doves in Michigan, has already drawn strong opposition.
The emergence of billboards, strategically placed where hunters and anglers can get a bird's-eye view of them, is one way to fight the measure, which now sits in the Committee on Conservation and Outdoor Recreation.
The billboards claim that doves are a sign of peace, not targets. But I have never seen a mourning dove in a peace sign. Instead, it is the white dove, a hybrid bird, not a wild indigenous species. But I can understand why some people would rather see HB 5029 blasted than the bird which many encourage to their home bird feeders.
Most sportspeople either hunt for the meat or the trophy, neither of which can be amply justified with at mourning dove which weighs only ounces, and would contain less meat than an average chicken leg. So maybe both sides of this issue could chew on this.
Why not hunt starlings?
Starlings are a non-native, invasive species to North America.
Their numbers have grown since their introduction in 1890 to pest levels, and they cause an estimated $800 million a year to farms, airports and personal property, as well as pushing native birds from their habitats. Starlings are not protected in Michigan and with a small-game license, may be hunted year round. They are also one of those birds that most people would discourage from their bird feeders, and let's face it, they aren't pretty, and probably wouldn't receive a guest spot on a giant billboard.
All that is needed to end this debate is a good starling recipe.
I'm still not exactly sure where I stand on Michigan trying to reintroduce dove hunting. On one hand, these birds have very short lifespans and fragile nesting environments, which, coupled with West Nile Virus and already heavy predatation, make them vulnerable. On the other hand, the sportspeople of Michigan deserve an opportunity as long as the decision is made based on solid scientific evidence alone.
But one thing I find strange.
It is estimated that there are 400 million mourning doves nationwide, twice as many as the number of starlings. I find it hard to believe there are twice as many doves than pesky starlings. And I don't like the argument that Michigan should hunt doves because 40 other states do. This state has always been a leader in conservation, not a follower. Does it next join Georgia and allow the use of dogs for deer hunting?
I hope not.
These new hunts mark monumental comebacks to animals once listed as endangered, and shows with proper management, rebounds of our depleting natural resources are reachable. The question still remains whether Michigan will be added to that list with its first dove hunt in almost 100 years when the issue surfaces this fall.
In the meantime, I think I will celebrate the first signs of fall by pursuing some salmon. You know, the salt-water fish that was introduced into Michigan's fresh-water Great Lakes while other state's experts laughed at the thought?
It's a sign on what can happen when a state leads and not follows.
- Songbird Protection Coalition