JEFFERSON CITY - Beginning Friday, the international symbol of peace will be targeted as dinner for thousands of Missourians.
Sept. 1 marks the opening day of mourning dove season. Approximately 45,000 hunters in almost every Missouri county will participate in the kill; and this year Missouri sportsmen will have an even greater opportunity to bag birds.
The Missouri Conservation Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service have determined the Missouri dove population is so strong it can support two dove seasons.
The first runs from Sept. 1-Sept. 30, the second from Nov. 1-Nov.30. During this period 800 thousand to 1.2 million doves will be gunned down.
"Whoo" goes the call of the dove and it may be asking, "who is helping me?"
Missouri enviromental groups are mum on the subject. A spokeswoman from the Missouri Environmental Coalition, in St. Louis, said the group has no position on dove hunting.
The apathy for doves by enviromental groups may be due to a large and well regulated dove population.
Ted Horst, a wildlife management biologist, helps the Missouri dove population thriving. He says his job is to, "provide the big three, food, cover and water." He does this by maintaing special conservation areas in central Mo.
Populations are determined by summer roadside surveys conducted by conservation officials in 114 Missouri counties.
John Schulz, a wildlife researcher, said, this year's count shows dove populations are at their strongest level since 1989 because of favorable nesting conditions in the spring.
Mourning doves like dry weather and will nest two or three times a summer if conditions are right.
Schulz also notes this increase may be due to the recent emphasis on aggressive research programs and the special conservation areas.
Conservation sites are located throughout the state where sunflower, wheat and weedy plants are planted specifically to attract doves. These areas also attract hunters.
Some areas have become so popular in recent years that hunters must enter a drawing for spots. It is not uncommon for 200-300 hunters to be in one area at the same time. But is having so many people with guns in such a small area a danger to hunters?
No, says Schulz, "having more people in an area is safer because everyone knows there are other hunters out there. If you think you are alone in the woods that is more dangerous."
According to Schulz there has not been a recorded dove hunting accident since the early sixties.