The Mourning Dove Doesn’t Leave His Mate

Sent to C.A.S.H. by Nancy Furstinger.

Good news, poets! Now there is a second association between dove and romance besides the overworked rhyme. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, when not “saying goodbye” to his Buenos Aires consort over Father’s Day, was dispatching mourning doves in Cordoba, Argentina.

The “official state trade delegation” as it was called by the Post Chronicle that included men and women, “VIPs,” and aides, was paid for by Sanford appointee and Cabinet member Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor.

News reports don’t give the name of the dove-hunting lodge in Cordoba where the wing shooting took place. Was it JJ Caceria’s Estancia where they advertise on their website, “It is normal to shoot between 1,000 to 1,500 shells per hunter per day… Hunters regularly use two guns and a reloader to prevent barrel overheating thanks to no bag limits or seasons.” Photos show mountains of deceased birds in front of grinning he-men. Whee!

At daybreak, “the birds started fly­ing, and it was non stop until we quit shooting at 11:30 or around 5 p.m. Notice I said we quit shooting. The doves were still flying when we left as we were completely worn out from shooting,” writes Mike Bland of Houston, Texas on the lodge’s web- site.

“I have never seen so many dove [sic] and have never [sic] a more ful­filling hunt in my life,” wrote William Holliday of New York.

“Both of my boys became members of the Club 1000 for shooting more than 1000 birds in a single day — a proud papa moment,” wrote John Horton of Austin, Texas.

Of course Horton doesn’t have to go all the way to Argentina to teach his children bloodlust. Most states, including Sanford’s South Carolina,

offer “youth dove hunts” for children as young as 8, though bag limits can be as low as 15 and adult takes count toward the child’s bag limit, so don’t try anything.

The light gray- brown mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) with its iridescent neck patches and long, tapered tail (“macroura” means “large” and “tail”) is the closest rela­tive to the Passenger Pigeon that was hunted into extinction in 1914.

Yet the common American backyard bird is also the nation’s most hunted bird, causing ethical and public rela­tions problems for sportsmen.

“Virtually every issue that puts hunting or wildlife management issues in the hands of the public starts out with hunters up against the ropes,” lamented the National Rifle Association Web site when dove hunting bans appeared on several state ballots.

The dove is cherished as a songbird and symbol of peace, and not guilty of overpopulating or eating crops or ornamental plants.

Nor are 3.5-ounce doves filled with shot that has to be picked out of any­one’s idea of a favorite meal.

A recipe for “dove with mush­rooms” calls for 16 dove breasts — hello – and doves grilled in barbecue sauce according to another recipe and wrapped in bacon and jalapenos all but disappear, wrote a disappointed outdoors writer.

How many have been bequeathed to bird boys (who didn’t want them either?) Even the mourning dove’s life span is controversial and a PR problem for dove hunters. Hunting sites give it as one year — read: not much of a life anyway — while the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory records a mourning dove living 31 years and 4 months. Big difference.

Of course it’s the other gun Sanford used on Father’s Day that has gotten him in trouble with three of the most influential women in the United States — his wife, the former Jennifer Sullivan of Lake Forest, IL, and Gail Collins and Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.

And now people are asking the usual ethics and judgment questions about Sanford: if a politician will cheat on his wife, who won’t he cheat on? If a politician will lie about sex, what won’t he lie about? If a politician will squander taxpayer money on this, what won’t he squander it on?

Absent from the public discussion is if a politician gets a thrill out of killing — repeatedly, for no reason and without a fight — what else is wrong with his mental health?

Nor is anyone pointing out that the mourning dove used to be called the Carolina Turtledove and doesn’t leave its mate.

Reprinted with permission of the author – appeared on as a guest commentary.


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