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Dove hunting ban rejected

ST. PAUL - An effort to ban mourning dove hunting in Minnesota has effectively been shot down for the year.

Some lawmakers, backed by animal protection organizations such as the Human Society, want to prohibit mourning dove hunting, a controversial sport made legal four years ago. They say the small bird is a symbol of peace and that some hunters simply use it for target practice.

A House game and fish panel swiftly rejected the proposed hunting prohibition on Monday. The measure was debated in a Senate committee, and the panel's chairman, DFLer Satveer Chaudhary of Fridley, said he would set the bill aside for future consideration.

"A dignified death" is how bill author Sen. Scott Dibble described the fate of his proposal. The Minneapolis DFLer said Wednesday that since Chaudhary opposes a ban, he does not expect it to advance.

Legislators legalized dove hunting in 2004; it had been banned since 1946.

The Department of Natural Resources favors a dove-hunting season. Ed Boggess, of the DNR's fish and wildlife division, said the mourning dove is the most abundant game bird in the country. There is no evidence the hunting season has threatened the population, he said.

In each of the first three seasons, an average of 15,000 hunters shot 85,000 to 90,000 birds, Boggess said.

Minnesota's dove-hunting season runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 30. The season is open statewide, but most of the hunting occurs in agricultural areas of western and southern Minnesota.

Dibble said he is not opposed to hunting in general, but argued there is no strong wildlife management rationale to justify mourning dove hunting. He also cited concerns that the lead shot used by dove hunters could harm other wildlife.

"If you want to shoot a bird, some of them are a lot better eating," added John Arthur of the Audobon Society's Minneapolis chapter.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said he is an avid hunter and knows of no hunter who shoots mourning doves for target practice and does not retrieve the downed birds.

Dove hunting has been a good way to recruit young people into hunting and other outdoors activities, said John Schroers, past president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance.

"This is a right-to-hunt state," Schroers said of citizens' constitutional right to hunt and fish.

Neither Dibble nor Rep. Mike Jaros, who sponsored the bill in the House, said they plan to push the issue further this year.

"I would like to pass it, of course, but we saw the reality," said Jaros, DFL-Duluth. "I'm not against hunting and fishing, but to shoot those little birds I just find very awful."