- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Things are anything but lovey-dovey up North, where there is much ado about a cooing gray bird.

“Dove hunters brought this fight to Michigan,” Michael Markarian of the Humane Society of the United States said yesterday. “Mainstream Michiganders want to restore the century-old ban on shooting doves. They don’t want the state’s official bird of peace blasted into pieces.”

Last summer, the Michigan Legislature reversed a 100-year-old ban on the hunting of mourning doves — considered a songbird back in 1905 and off limits. The bill, later signed into law by Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, designates doves as fair game in a half-dozen counties until 2006.

At the time, Jackson, Mich.-based rocker/gun enthusiast Ted Nugent rejoiced, reminding lawmakers that “doves are food.” The Detroit Free Press, alternatively, noted the decision pacified “sophomoric rationales coming forth from the gun-nut lobby” and accused Mrs. Granholm of “shameless flip-flop.”

The Lansing-based Committee to Restore the Dove Shooting Ban is ready to rumble for the bird of peace, however. They claim doves are not food — just “target practice.”

Endorsed by former Gov. William Milliken and 26 animal protection groups, including the Humane Society, Attorneys for Animals and the Doris Day Animal League, the organization submitted 275,000 voter signatures to the Michigan Elections Bureau yesterday.

After a statewide petition drive, the activists hope the signatures will land a vigorous anti-dove-hunting referendum on the state’s 2006 ballot.

“Well, we really don’t have a comment on this. The bill that the governor signed last year is a reasonable one, and the dove hunts will be closely monitored over the next three years,” Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said yesterday.

Revenue from the $2 dove stamp that some 40,000 hunters must purchase for their sporting licenses is shared between the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund and the Game and Fish Protection Trust Fund.

But that’s not enough for some.

“The wanton killing of these harmless birds simply goes against what many Michigan residents feel is proper wildlife management,” countered Cal Morgan, director of the Michigan Humane Society.

Cooing doves are a distinct political entity, though. The pros and cons of their hunting has been a perennial favorite on local ballots for years, appearing on voter referendums in Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Although the nation’s 400 million mourning doves are classified as migratory birds, the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act allows managed hunting. Doves may be hunted in 40 states; nationwide, hunters bag about 22.7 million doves a year.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Restore the Dove Shooting Ban is hopeful that dove lovers will prevail.

“This will give the majority a direct voice and the right to vote yes or no on the target shooting of doves in their backyard communities,” director Julie Baker observed.

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