Mourning doves have again staved off hunters in Iowa and Michigan's annual assault on their protection. Despite legislative sleight of hand tricks and political spin, citizens in Iowa and Michigan have again said NO to lifting their bans on the killing of the mourning dove.
In Iowa, the sponsor's strategy was to act quickly at the beginning of the General Assembly, before the public could react. However, the public did react and again told their legislators they do not want the ban lifted. Nevertheless, both the House and Senate passed legislation lifting the ban by very narrow margins. Fortunately, Governor Tom Vilsack, who opposed similar legislation while in the State Senate, vetoed the bill, calling it "seriously flawed." Iowan Merle Wilson summed up the entire dove hunting movement when he said, "The only shame here is from the underhanded tactics and deceit used to try and sneak a dove bill through disguised as a migratory-bird bill."
The defeat of this legislation in Michigan took the more traditional path. The Wildlife Legislative Fund of America (WLFA) and the guns and ammunition industry worked with state legislators to introduce this legislation at the very end of the legislative session when normal business had been finished. Once again, the tide of public opposition won out when, after the House had approved the bill by a slim majority, the Michigan State Senate defeated, by one vote, the repeal of Michigan's 90-year-old dove protection legislation.
The issue of mourning dove hunting has become more a symbol of legislative muscle flexing for the guns and ammunition industry than an actual hunting issue. With fewer Americans hunting, the industries and organizations such as the WLFA and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have desperately been going state to state attempting to reassert their dominance by attacking a peaceful bird that we all take for granted in our yards. During attempts by opponents to lift Michigan's dove hunting ban the Detroit Free Press reported that "Some senators said they were promised pet projects or other enticements by fellow lawmakers in return for a 'yes' vote." The Ohio-based WLFA has already begun an assault on repealing Wisconsin and Rhode Island's ban on dove hunting.
However, despite the attacks on doves, there is a bright side. According to an article recently published in The New York Times, "As Their Numbers Soar, Birders Seek Political Influence to Match," nearly one-fifth of all Americans, or 50 million people, are bird watchers and feeders, spending over $25 billion annually on bird watching and feeding devices, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. That is more than all hunters and anglers combined, making "birders" a powerful advocacy group for protecting feathered creatures including the mourning dove. Bird lovers even have a book on The New York Times Best Sellers List called "The Sibley Guide To Birds," which has sold over 300,000 copies in its first year of publication. With the growing interest and political influence of birders, mourning doves and all other birds will have a powerful ally to fight off and end these unwarranted attacks by misguided special interests.
Photo: Mourning doves mate for life and are known to grieve the loss of a spouse. Illustration by Bob Hines/USFWS.