Judge puts hold on Wisconsin dove hunt.

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Judge puts hold on Wisconsin dove hunt.

By DENNIS CHAPTMAN of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Aug. 28, 2001

Madison - Wisconsin's first mourning dove hunting season, set to open on Saturday, was blocked by a Dane County judge Tuesday.

Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser granted the request of a New London-based group called Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves to stop the hunt until its lawsuit against the state Department of Natural Resources can be heard.

The judge's nine-page decision concluded that "there will be irreparable harm if the motion for a preliminary injunction is denied." He then enjoined the DNR from instituting a mourning dove hunting season.

Moeser said the Legislature intended to develop specific definitions of game birds and non-game birds, and added that there is some evidence that lawmakers did not intend to have mourning doves classed as game birds.

The Legislature in 1971 removed mourning doves from the game bird classification.

"The Legislature is presumed to know what it is doing, and the removal of mourning doves is evidence that the legislature did not intend to have mourning doves included in the classification of birds for which the DNR could establish a hunting season," Moeser wrote.

Attorneys for both sides were not immediately available for comment.

Moeser's ruling is the latest turn in the ongoing and lengthy battle over whether the doves - Wisconsin's official "bird of peace - should be hunted.

Proponents have noted that the mourning dove is the nation's most plentiful game bird and is already hunted in 39 other states. Opponents counter that too little is known about its population in the state, the northern fringe of its breeding range, and that Wisconsin offers a plenitude of other species to hunt.

The issue drew record numbers of people to last year's meetings of the Conservation Congress, a DNR advisory group, and two legislative hearings. In May 2000, the Natural Resources Board, which oversees DNR operations, approved the hunt on a 5-2 vote. Two legislative committees had 30 days to block or change the rule, but neither did so.

The 60-day hunt that was supposed to open on Saturday and would have run through Oct. 30. Hunting hours were to be a half-hour before sunrise till sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 doves, with a possession limit of 30.

The DNR estimates that an estimated 30,000 Wisconsinites are expected to participate in the hunt this year and to take up to 150,000 doves. The state's fall mourning dove population is estimated at between 4 million and 5 million birds.

A more complete version of this story will appear online later today and in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the morning.
 

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