Outdoors: Be careful of racing pigeons when you're hunting doves

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 17, 2009

By Becky Mishak
For the Salisbury Post
In North Carolina, as in most states, dove season has begun.
I have nothing against dove hunters, except one thing. There are some irresponsible hunters out there. Keep in mind that there is a reason it is called “dove” season. You are to shoot mourning doves. If there aren’t many out that day, don’t go shooting everything else that flies. If you injure or kill a native species of wild bird, that’s against the law. So be careful. You should know the flight pattern of doves and what they look like. Stick to mourning doves.
The reason I’m concerned is because I have racing pigeons. Every year, our birds are in danger. Pigeons are not native to the United States, so they aren’t protected under law. Last Sunday, I trained my birds on a 40-mile flight. Hunting on Sunday in North Carolina is against the law. I heard no shots and thought all was safe. Well, my birds must have gotten mixed up with some others, because I only had half home by nightfall. Not totally uncommon. They’re young birds and these things happen. Hawks chase them, and they tire out; weather turns ugly; low flying planes upset them; large feral flocks distract them, etc.
Monday morning, I was happy to see more come in. But those who were out overnight and that morning were very stressed out. I have several with gunshot holes in their tails and flight feathers.
And one, which was one of my favorites, has a piece of shot lodged in its chest. I’ve done my best to doctor it up, and I’m hoping for the best.
You might think pigeons are pests, stupid, and diseased. But mine aren’t. I take good care of my birds. They are pedigreed racers, some of which could possibly bring in a pretty penny. Pigeon racing isn’t just for older folks, either. I’m 16 years old, a girl (yes, seriously), and the pigeon hobby is my passion. I’ll be heartbroken if that bird dies on me. I’m highly upset right now, nervous and anxious awaiting the arrival of my now nine missing babies. And totally disappointed and disgusted at the local dove hunters around here. I’m a hunter, too, of deer, because I like birds too much to avidly hunt them. But I know better than to shoot something that isn’t in the current season.
So be responsible. Hunt what and when you are supposed to. And if you happen to injure or kill a banded bird, at least have enough respect to look up the band info and contact the owner.
A racing pigeon will have a band on it, usually saying either IF or AU, then a year, more letters (club letters), and a serial number. You can trace IF bands here: www.ifpigeon.com; trace AU bands here: www.pigeon.com; trace NPA bands here: www.npausa.com; and IPB bands here www.foyspigeonsupplies. com.
Oh, and by the way, yes I do know, as I’ve heard it many times before, that I shouldn’t expect to be able to trust all the hunters around here. But you know what? We should be able to trust them all to do what’s right.
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Becky Mishak lives and raises racing pigeons in Rockwell.