At the Capitol on Monday in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, the topic was doves and dove hunting. Among those who favor the former but somehow oppose the latter, facts were few. But the entertainment value they offered was high. So many screwballs with so much time on their hands made for a reality show we could only wish were fiction.

At issue was the fate of Minnesota's newly rekindled dove hunting season. Prohibited for nearly 60 years, dove hunting was again offered to Minnesota hunters four years ago. Troubled citizens who would have legislators believe that doves are now struggling because of this received a hearing Monday.

Carrying a bill for them that would again outlaw dove hunting was Sen. D. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. The good senator might as well have weighed in on the space shuttle and how to fly it. At least then he could have offered a few original thoughts and not had to parrot the cockamamie drivel foisted so often on an unsuspecting public by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

A digression here. This is not your father's Humane Society, the one you call when Fido goes missing. HSUS is rather more akin to a band of culture warriors, occasionally doing good but fundamentally not quite satisfied with the way things have shaken out here in the good ol' Red, White and Blue, a nation where -- yikes! -- some people actually enjoy themselves.

Last Sunday in this newspaper, Dibble the Parrot was quoted saying that hunters use doves for "target practice'' and that some hunters leave doves they shoot in the field. Monday in the Senate he produced not a scintilla of evidence supporting these assertions. But then neither does HSUS on its website, from which Dibble seems to have plagiarized his thinking on the subject.

You really do wonder what's going on. Mourning doves are by far the most populous game bird in North America. More are killed by hunters each fall than all other migratory game birds combined. This occurs without injury because mourning doves repopulate themselves at high rates, and because their lives are short regardless.

Which is the heart of the matter: Hunted or not, millions upon millions of doves will die each year. As with all healthy game bird populations, the proportion taken by hunters would have died anyway. In this and all other game populations, abundance or lack thereof generally is determined not by any ill effects of modern, well-regulated hunting, but by the amount of quality habitat available.

History has shown that if you want to save something on this planet, make it a huntable or fishable species and allow a constituency to form around it.

This is as true for elephants as it is for ducks; so, too, pheasants and rainbow trout. And many others. Who do you think has led the century-old fight for wetland preservation in this state? Upland restoration? And the preservation of cold-water streams in the southeast?

Hunters and anglers.

Consider also that Minnesota is a right-to-hunt state, as declared by a constitutional amendment approved by more than 70 percent of voters. Being so, why is the hunting of doves -- a populous, healthy game bird -- even being reviewed?

I know why. Because Dibble and his parroting supporters have feelings.

They don't know for a fact that hunting is hurting doves.

But they feel it.

They don't know for a fact that hunters leave doves in the field or use them for target practice.

But they feel it.

Here's a fact: Like all other modern, well-regulated game species, doves are a renewable resource. Though small -- as are sunfish, woodcock, snipe and other game -- they provide food and, yes, sport, at sustainable levels without negative consequence to the environment.

Irrespective of being sought by hunters.

Oh, that we could say the same for oil! And gas. And corn and soybeans, the expansion of which is now poised to wreak all manner of further havoc on our lands and waters.

Speaking of which, when thousands of hunters and anglers rallied on the Capitol Mall in recent years demanding the Legislature pass dedicated funding to save Minnesota's wetlands, lands, rivers and lakes, where was the Humane Society of the United States?

Where were its supporters?

Sportsmen and women could have used all the help they could get.

Perhaps the people with feelings just didn't feel like coming.