Karl Rove and Dove Hunting

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. 20070223mourning01n.jpg

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.

If you are interested in the politics of Karl Rove’s resignation, there are brief summaries of what the pundits and bloggers are saying here and here.


6 Responses to “Karl Rove and Dove Hunting”

  1. eatmorecookies Says:

    Bush’s inner circle does seem to take particular delight in blasting little birds out of the sky. . .

    Dove hunting is big business out here in the Plains, and there are probably even more participants than quail hunting. Every so often the debate crops up as to why doves are considered “game”. It’s convention more than anything else I suspect. There’s no real (i.e. biological) reason, for example, that we can’t hunt robins, it’s just that we decided a few years back not to.

  2. Kent Says:

    Thanks for the comment. We were wondering about that. We’ll do a little historical research. Maybe it started with Audubon;)

  3. firefly Says:

    Great post fatfinch, as always! Thoughtful, yet restrained. As for why society considers it okay to kill particular species while spending millions to save one individual of a beloved species (I’m thinking of Keiko the whale here), I think you would have to look at many factors. Societal and historical mores, how empathic each individual human is (in Rove’s case I would say he has no empathy for anything), and of course they have done myriad studies on the “cuteness” factor…all this comes in to play in my opinion. Orcas are about as skilled a killer as sharks, but we think orcas are cute.

  4. eatmorecookies Says:

    Yeah, but what could be cuter than a Mourning Dove, a Bobwhite, or a doe-eyed deer?

    At the risk of giving game managers too much credit, one thing that unites many “game” species is the capacity to reproduce quickly. Mourning Doves are often treble-brooded; quail usually produce clutches far larger than the 4 or 5 eggs laid by most temperate songbirds. So the idea is that the game species can “absorb” a certain level of hunting mortality (we call this “compensatory mortality”) without reducing the annual population size – sustainable yield and all that . . .

  5. Bebop Nirvana Says:

    Let’s Kill Birdies!

    I was outside just now and I heard ominous popping sounds off in the distance toward the cotton fields.

    Strange, I thought to myself. What could that be? And then I remembered….

  6. Sonia Roa Says:

    Hey! That’s kinda mean, even if your are a hunter, these birds are probably the cutest and most friendly doves of all. I have half-tamed one in my backyard, he will sit on my hand if I offer it to him. These birds are too important even if they’re abundant. 😦

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