Karl Rove is quitting the White House and going dove hunting in West Texas. This is not a political blog and we won’t inflict our political opinions on our readers but what about dove hunting in West Texas?
We ourselves are not hunters but we do not judge those who are. We bird and we fish and we share the same atavistic desire to be connected to nature that most hunters share. Moreover, hunters, birders and fishers have a great deal in common when it comes to the politics of ecology and the environment. Big game animals, like trout and birds, live in beautiful places that need protecting.
But dove hunting? Killing a symbol of peace? There is some irony in that, especially for someone in the high realms of policy-making in an Administration that launched a war.
You can go dove hunting in Texas for about $300 a day. That includes lodging, food, a guide and hunting on private land. Farmers and ranchers lease the land to dove hunting outfitters who bring the hunters. Usually the doves are truly wild doves, others are raised – like the Quail that Vice-president Cheney was hunting when he accidentally shot his friend – for the purpose of being hunted. The outfitters collect, clean and package the dead birds and deliver them to the hunters. One outfitter recommends high velocity shotgun shells because, “Fast flying, darting doves are hard to kill.” The same outfitter advertises that they, “sometimes catch a big migration of doves coming through from Kansas or Oklahoma that have stopped to rest and eat. . .”
What kind of dove will Karl Rove be killing in West Texas in early September? Most likely Mourning Doves. Mourning Doves are the most abundant “game” bird in the United States with upwards of 70 million killed each year. Juveniles begin migrating through Texas in late summer and by late autumn adults have joined. As the outfitter notes, they rest and eat frequently on migration.
It is a species that has actually benefited from the settlement and urbanization of North America. Mourning Doves avoid forests and prefer cleared land and urban areas for living. They rank in the top twenty of all bird species in North America. Nonetheless, they not only die from shotguns, they also die from pesticides and herbicides and from lead poisoning. They get the lead poisoning from fields where they are hunted. They eat lead shot from shotgun shells. These poisons work their way up the bird chain because some raptors also hunt them. Lead shot is unnecessary, of course. Steel pellets kill just as effectively.
Other dove species live in West Texas. Eurasian Collared Doves, White-winged Doves and Inca Doves are relatively common but not nearly as abundant as Mourning Doves.
The photograph of the Mourning Dove was taken by one of the best wildlife photographers we know of. You can look at the work of Robert Shantz at his web-site http://www.rshantz. Be prepared to spend a little time looking at all his work. It is excellent. We’ve added his site to the blogroll.