Wisconsin hunters prepare for 1st dove season.

spectr17

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SUN 26-Aug-2001

Hunters prepare for dove season.

By Doug Zellmer of the Northwestern

Wisconsin hunters soon will get a chance to try their luck at shooting a swift, elusive bird.

They’ll take to the fields for the state’s first mourning dove hunt Sept. 1 to Oct. 30. Wisconsin joins 38 other states that allow mourning dove hunting.

"I’ve hunted mourning doves the past six or seven years in Illinois, and I’m looking forward to it here," said Berlin resident Thomas Traxler, who will use a 20-gauge shotgun to hunt near Stevens Point.

Traxler will join an estimated 30,000 hunters for the two-month dove season, said Keith Warnke, upland wildlife ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Re-sources. He said the number of hunters is based on par-ticipation rates in migratory bird hunting in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.

Warnke said the hunt will not decimate the dove popula-tion, which is estimated at 4 million to 5 million birds in Wisconsin.

"We estimated about 150,000 morning doves will be shot, based on the harvest rates of migratory birds in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S.," he said. "Mourn-ing doves have a very high birth rate and mortality rate. Their normal life span is a year or less."

Some already are mourning the loss of the state’s offi-cial peace symbol, which the mourning dove has been since 1971.

Dick Shepard, president of the Oshkosh Bird Club, said he is not against hunting in general but is against the hunting season for mourning doves.

"They’ve changed the status of a song bird, which the mourning dove is, to a game bird," he said. "The bird will become just something to kill to prove a person can shoot and hit something in the air. To me, that devalues life."

Shepard said his fear is that mourning doves shot by ir-responsible people will be left lying in fields because the work to prepare the bird for a meal is beyond the value of the meat.

"There isn’t much meat on a mourning dove. At most, about 2 ounces," he said.

The dove season enjoyed overwhelming support at DNR hearings in April 2000 as proponents made it a test on hunting rights. They passed the measure by a nearly 4-to-1 margin.

But the meetings also attracted hundreds of people op-posed to the hunt. They have challenged the proposal every step of the way.

In May last year, the DNR Board approved the hunt. State Assembly and Senate committees that review the board’s decision declined to make any changes.

An animal-rights group filed a civil lawsuit in June against the DNR, hoping for a preliminary injunction to stop the hunt. The group wants a judge to rule that DNR officials misinterpreted hunting statutes in establishing the hunt.

Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser said he will announce next week whether he will grant a request from Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves to issue a court order stopping the hunt.

Opponents say that won’t be enough time to stop the hunt should the judge rule in their favor.

As far as Shepard is concerned, the whole ugly mess could have been avoided had the state listened to what hunters really were saying.

Shepard said instead of reclassifying a song bird to a game bird, the state could have strengthened the popula-tion of other game birds, protecting the mourning dove.

"What the state could have done, but they chose not to do it, is they could have expanded their pheasant popu-lation and done more with Hungarian partridge to in-crease flocks so people have more game birds to hunt," he said.

For those who choose to take part in the dove hunt, they will find they are after an elusive bird, said Tom Nigus, land and forestry team leader for the DNR office in Wautoma. Nigus has hunted mourning doves in Illinois and plans to hunt them in Wisconsin.

"Once people do try it they will realize it’s not some-thing easy," he said. "They are quick fliers. They dart back and forth and up and down. It almost seems they can turn on a dime."

Officials from the DNR said the daily bag limit is 15 doves.

Hunters may take only one daily bag limit in any one day. Also, the DNR states that mourning doves cannot be hunted with the aid of bait, including salt, grain or other feed.

Nigus said it will take a while before mourning dove hunting is a tradition in Wisconsin, but hunters who go out this year should enjoy it.

"They’ll be surprised how much fun it will be. Those who try it, I think will like it."

Doug Zellmer: (920) 426-6667 or dzell-mer@smgpo.gannett.com.

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Last year an Iowa commision turned down having a dove hunt. One commision member cited the death threats he received from animal rights groups as the reason he voted aginst the measure. It boggles the mind. I haven't seen any word on if the police followed up on the death threats against this man who was on the commision.
 

QALHNTR

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My cousin who lives in WI said that there is almost no support for the hunt in his county.  No one can understand why it's fun.  He couldn't believe that we ate the birds. This comes from a guy who truely LIVES & BREATHES hunting. I'm going back in November for the deer opener.  I'll bring him the photos with all of the smiling faces.  I sure hope he tries it.  
 

EL CAZADOR

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DOVE HUNTING ON HOLD IN WISCONSIN

Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser granted a request from the Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves, which filed a civil lawsuit in June against the state Department of Natural Resources, seeking a court order halting the hunt until it could further pursue its claims in court.

Moeser said state statutes show that the Legislature intended to develop specific definitions for game and nongame birds. And he said there was evidence the Legislature did not intend for mourning doves to be considered game birds.

Moeser said animal rights groups had shown "that there will be irreparable harm if the motion for a preliminary injunction is denied."

A coalition of sportsmen's rights groups, called the Wildlife Legislation Fund of America, had asked to intervene in the lawsuit in support of the dove hunt.

The hunt had overwhelming support at DNR hearings in April 2000 as proponents made it a test on hunting rights. But the meetings also attracted hundreds of people opposed to the hunt.

George Strother, a Madison attorney representing the animal rights group, and DNR Secretary Darrell Bazzell did not immediately return telephone messages The Associated Press left at their offices Tuesday.
 

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