Mar 11, 2001
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Ruling could thwart dove hunt again

Judge says lawmakers may not have wanted game bird designation

By MEG JONES of the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel staff

April 17, 2002

A mourning dove hunt is most likely off for this fall after a Dane County judge barred the state Department of Natural Resources from setting a dove season, officials said Wednesday.

Judge Daniel Moeser ruled in favor of Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves, which filed a lawsuit last year to stop the controversial hunt. In a decision released Tuesday, Moeser said the DNR couldn't schedule a mourning dove season without authorization from the Legislature.

Barring an appeal, that means the DNR - for the second straight year - will be unable to go forward with the dove hunt.

The ruling angered hunters, but the citizens group hailed it as a victory for the state's official "bird of peace."

In granting a temporary injunction in August, just days before 30,000 hunters were expected to head into the woods to hunt mourning doves, Moeser said there were questions over whether the DNR had the authority to establish a mourning dove hunting season.

Moeser said then that the Legislature intended to develop specific definitions of game birds and non-game birds, and he 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.

DNR to appeal
The DNR plans to appeal Moeser's decision, but agency attorney Tim Andryk said that could take a year, which means a dove hunt this fall is doubtful.

"It's going to be very difficult to get a decision from an appeals court that would allow us to have a hunt this fall," Andryk said Wednesday.

John Wieneke, president of Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves, said he felt vindicated by the judge's decision.

"To me it's as plain as day that the wording defining game as all wild animals is problematic," said Wieneke. "I . . . think if you put that to any citizen in the state except for a dedicated hunter they'd be shocked and dismayed that the state defines every wild bird as potential game."

Jim Weix, head of Wisconsin Dove Hunters, said Moeser's decision sets a dangerous precedent over how to handle the state's renewable resources.

"Do we do it though science and biology, or through courtroom antics?" he asked.

The DNR contended that it acted properly in drafting the administrative rules for a mourning dove hunt and that those rules went through the legislative process. Two separate hearings were held, and lawmakers did not make changes to the rules.

"We somewhat anticipated that (Moeser) felt that our authority to establish a season wasn't clear on this, and that he felt the Legislature needed to step in on this," Andryk said. "We thought the Legislature had. They held a hearing and passed the rule on to implementation. The judge felt they needed to go further than that."

Legislative action unlikely
One way to resolve the issue would be for the Legislature to approve a measure that would specifically allow the hunting of mourning doves, but Andryk said that was unlikely. The regular legislative session ended last month, and lawmakers are now in special session only to deal with the state's $1.1 billion budget deficit.

Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud (R-Eastman) said the Legislature shouldn't have to act on the issue.

"The DNR has got to be able to promulgate rules for hunting seasons," said Johnsrud, a supporter of mourning dove hunting.

"What the judge is saying (is), 'I think every species out there that's hunted is up for grabs.' Because you can convolute this (ruling) and say, 'Hey, I don't want them to shoot quail because they don't have the authority to set the season,' " said Johnsrud, who two years ago hosted a dove-tasting lunch in his legislative offices to promote the hunt.

When the question of hunting mourning doves came up two years ago, crowds at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress hearings voted in an advisory referendum 21,000 to 6,000 in favor of hunting the birds.

Steve Oestreicher, chairman of the Conservation Congress, an advisory group to the DNR board, blasted Moeser for his ruling.

"It's clearly a case of a very liberal judge who does not hunt, fish or trap. Hopefully now we can get this out of that arena and get it in a different court system to appeal it," said Oestreicher.

Wieneke said he's confident his group will prevail at the appellate level.

Dove Hunt Background

Events leading up to a judge's decision that will likely prevent the state's mourning dove hunt scheduled for this fall:

January 2000: The state Department of Natural Resources Board says a proposal to allow hunting mourning doves will be the subject of spring hearings held by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

April 2000: The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, an advisory group to the DNR board, draws a record turnout at its spring hearings as attendees in 72 counties vote 21,000 to 6,000 in favor of hunting doves.

May 2000: The DNR board votes in favor of the dove hunt, which would allow someone to shoot about 15 of the state's official symbol of peace each day.

June 2001: Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves files a lawsuit against the DNR, seeking a court order to stop the dove hunt.

August 2001: Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser issues a temporary injunction that blocks what would have been the state's first dove hunt.

January: Moeser dismisses lawsuit, saying the citizens group failed to show that it had sufficient interest in the case to raise its challenge.

April 16: Moeser rules that the group does have legal standing in the case and rules that the DNR does not have authority to allow dove hunt.


To me it's as plain as day that the wording defining game as all wild animals is problematic.

- John Wieneke ,
president of Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Cranes and Doves
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