An animal protection group criticized President-elect George Bush Tuesday for spending the holidays hunting, saying the way to create a kinder, gentler nation would be to "shoot clay pigeons, not live quail."

The Fund for Animals Inc. urged Bush to stop quail hunting and sent him a telegram reminding him that the birds, just like other animals, feel pain and want to live.The group's telegram came in response to comments Bush made Monday in Beeville, Texas, where he is quail hunting.

When asked about his three-day hunting expedition, Bush said, "These aren't animals. These are wild quail. You've got to eat." He added, "I don't think I could shoot a deer. Quail, that's something else again . . . tremendously exciting."

Cleveland Amory, president of the Fund for Animals, said he felt disappointed by Bush's actions because he thought the president-elect should be setting an example for the rest of the nation and following through on his campaign pledge to seek a "kinder, gentler nation."