LANSING -- About a month after Michigan’s
inaugural mourning dove hunting season closed, the issue remains hotly contested.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said neither estimates nor the exact number of doves taken in the first season, which ran from Sept. 10 to Oct. 30, will be available for another three months.
But Al Stewart, an upland game bird specialist for the DNR, said the season was a success. “The season went very successfully,” Stewart said. “There were no problems and law enforcement agents didn’t find any violations.”
Stewart said more than 5,000 of the required dove hunting stamps were sold at $2 apiece. Half of the money goes toward the Non-game Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund while the other half goes to the state Fish and Wildlife Protection Fund.
“The funds go to protect and manage Michigan wildlife,” Stewart said.
There was some speculation that the season would cause problems with dove habitats, but Stewart said that at this point nothing has changed.
“Mourning doves are still at people’s bird feeders. We can still view them and hunt them,” he said. “There are enough doves for everyone.”
Doves could be hunted only in Berrien, Branch, Cass, Hillsdale, Lenawee and St. Joseph counties in southern Michigan.
Michigan became the 41st state to allow a dove hunting season after the Legislature and Gov. Jennifer
Granholm approved a bill allowing a three-year trial period. Stewart said keeping the three years is important so he and the DNR can analyze the seasons and their impact on the state.
Julie Baker, a member of the Songbird Protection Coalition of Michigan refutes some of the claims made by the DNR, including that the department artificially inflated its hunting numbers and said that the three-year trial period will do considerable damage to the environment.
“They used tactics to make the number of hunters and interest seem larger than it really was. They also estimated that 200,000 doves would be killed, but with the 30 percent that are not retrieved and wounded, that total comes to 260,000,” Baker said of the DNR.
The Lansing-based group Baker works with has been collecting signatures of people who are against hunting doves since mid-September. After eight weeks, it had about 75,000 names on a petition to force a statewide vote on the issue. The group must file 225,000 signatures by the March 2005 deadline to get its proposal on the November 2006 ballot.
“We’re right on target, we’re meeting our weekly goal,” Baker said. “We want the people to decide whether, yes, they want dove hunting or no, they don’t want dove hunting.”
The coalition opposes dove hunting for several reasons, including the size of the bird population and the fact that lead from shooting ammunition can damage cropland.
An estimated four million mourning doves migrate from Michigan every fall, according to the DNR.
“The mourning dove is one of the most numerous and widely distributed birds,” Stewart said.