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ACTIVISTS PROTEST USE OF 6,000 PIGEONS FOR ANNUAL `SHOOT'

Blood-red paint recently reappeared on highway signs leading into town, presaging yet another confrontation between animal-rights activists and hunters over the annual pigeon shoot.

An estimated 250 hunters will assemble at Hegins Park on Labor Day for what amounts to a massive skeet shoot where the targets are some 6,000 live birds instead of clay pigeons.Animal-rights activists say they'll be there again to protest the 59th annual Fred Coleman Memorial Shoot, named after a local marksman.

"We have to stop it," said Heidi Prescott, with the Maryland-based Fund For Animals Inc., which is organizing the demonstration. "This is the worst public spectacle of killing animals in the country."

Last year, an estimated 1,000 protesters converged on Hegins, a town of 900 people nestled in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, to disrupt the shoot. Police arrested about 90 of them on charges of civil disobedience.

Besides spray-painting highway signs bearing the town's name, their tactics included obstructing the shooters, pulling the string on trap boxes to release the pigeons before the shooter was ready, and dashing onto the field to rescue pigeons that were only wounded before "trapper boys" could get to the injured birds to break their necks.