Are Mourning Doves Fair Game in Michigan?
Published September 11, 2005.
By Bud Donnelly. Huron Daily Tribune.
Mourning dove hunting in Michigan has turned into a major controversy, one that won't be settled until November of next year. That's when a proposal to reinstate the shooting ban is scheduled to be put to a vote by the citizens of Michigan.
Historically, dove hunting has been banned in this state for about 100 years. Then in 2004, the legislature passed - then amended - a bill to allow hunting on a trial basis. It would provide for a three-year trial hunt starting in 2004. then the DNR was to study what effects these trial hunts had on the dove population before allowing future hunts. The first hunt was limited to the five southern counties bordering on Ohio and Indiana, two states in which dove hunting has been legal.
This 2004 hunt brought about 3,000 hunters into these five counties. They shot an estimated 28,000 mourning doves. While they were in the field, through, anti-dove hunters were busy circulating a petition to reinstate the shooting ban. By this spring, the Committee to Restore the Dove Shooting Ban had collected about 275,000 signatures on a referendum petition to be placed on the ballot in November 2006. This was almost twice the number of signatures required. The State Board of Canvassers approved the petition Dan suspended the hunts scheduled for 2005 and 2006...pending the result of the election.
Hunters in Michigan responded with a coalition of sportsmen groups founding the Citizens for Wildlife Conservation Committee. Yep, that's the name they coined to allow more dove hunts.
Now the race is on to see which side will raise the most campaign money to spend in the weeks - or months - leading up to next year's election. The pollsters have also been busy this summer. Their polls indicate that we've got another highly contentious political issue. In one major poll, 42 percent of those interviewed favor reinstating the shooting ban, while 40 percent are for hunting doves. This leaves 18 percent undecided - fence sitters - and the primary targets for each side to work on.
We're not among those who sit on the fence. Fences are for the birds. But we have been known to jump the fence in recent years on some issues that involve the "sport" of hunting. With age, we seem to have become more dovish than hawkish.
As kids growing up on a farm in southern Michigan, my brothers and I became accomplished small-game hunters by the time we were in our teens. In the fall hunting seasons, we became "meat" hunters. Our targets were ring-neck pheasants, quail and cottontails.
Tuning up for the hunting season, we shot pigeons for sport. We had access to several shotguns, including a 410 pump, a 20-gauge automatic and a 12-gauge o/u double barrel. And we learned hunting safety. We also leaned how to track and flush cock roosters safely in fields of standing corn. Squirrel hunting and crow hunting were a year-round sports activity with a Stevens bolt-action .22 rifle.
In those days, fishing trips were few and far between. Sixty or so years later, fishing has displaced hunting to a great degree. And bird watching gradually replaced bird hunting, especially when moving to the Upper Thumb, where the variety of birds we've spotted continues to amaze.
So as I see a mourning dove under one of the backyard feeders, I see a soft-spoken, family -oriented bird that is a peace with itself and its surroundings....not a target for shooting. In contrast, grackles and blue jays remind me of Attila's huns as they swarm in like a gang of toughs to take over all of the feeders and intimidate the finches and chickadees and cardinals. Only the docile mourning doves seem to ignore these raucous invaders...the uninvited birds that make good targets for sport shooting. We still have that old.22 but living in a residential neighborhood, we are reduced to keeping order in the backyard with an air riffle.
- Songbird Protection Coalition