Along with choosing our next governor, one of the things Michiganders will decide when they go to the polls in November has to do with winged creatures that go "coo." Specifically, voters will determine whether manly men (and equally manly women, we should probably say, to be PC genderwise) with large guns can blast away at mourning doves.
If you're like News Hits, you might be harboring the mistaken notion that such dove blasting is already allowed. It was a big issue back in 2004 when a flip-flopping Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed into law a bill authorizing the hunting of these fearsome creatures. Hunting the songbirds which is legal in about 40 other states had been banned in Michigan since 1905.
Perhaps because New Hits' hunting expeditions are limited to an endless search for good times during our off-hours, we missed the fact that the bird blasting was halted after one season. That's because animal-loving types began mounting a petition drive in 2005 to get the issue on the ballot. Using an all-volunteer army of 5,000, the anti-blasters gathered some 275,000 signatures way more than enough to get the as-yet-unnumbered measure on the ballot. The hunt is on hold until voters weigh in on the issue.
Michael Markarian, an executive vice president for the Humane Society of the United States, flew in from Washington, D.C., last week and stopped in at the Metro Times with a few fellow travelers as part of a media tour intended to start framing the issue early on.
Included in the group was Lansing political consultant Steve Serkaian. The last time Steve passed through our doors he was here as part of Sharon McPhail's campaign to become mayor of Detroit. The mourning doves can only hope things go better at the ballot box for them than they did for Sharon.
But the presence of a seasoned pro like Serkaian, and a visit so far in advance of an election, signals how seriously a broad coalition of animal lovers is taking this campaign. Part of the reason they're already out drumming up editorial support is Serkaian says pro-hunting forces intend to spend $3.5 million to get mourning doves back in the line of fire.
The hunters say that doves make for good eatin' there's a Michigan Dove Hunters Web site (midovehunt.com) that has such recipes as dove stir fry and sauerkraut dove and that they make for good target practice, zipping along at an impressive 45 mph or so. In their view, these kin to the pigeon are a "renewable resource" that are in no danger of disappearing. Also, because you don't need to be particularly stealthy when gunning for doves it's not like trying to bag a deer it's a rather "social" activity, and a good way to introduce the kids to the joys of hunting.
Rob Sexton, who's with the Ohio-based U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, which is part of the coalition seeking to convince Michigan voters that dove hunting is a good thing, says that the anti-side in this issue isn't just interested in saving doves. "They want to ban all hunting," he says.
News Hits has a problem with that kind of slippery-slope argument, though. For one thing, it's a plane that can slide both ways.
As a case in point, during our meeting with Markarian, he offered up a query he says was asked of him by a hunter in the Upper Peninsula who liked pursuing more formidable game but didn't see much sport in filling doves full of lead: "What's next are we going to start hunting cardinals and robins and blue jays?"Curt Guyette edits News Hits. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]