Iowa hunters may be able to legally shoot mourning doves this fall. It’s been illegal to hunt mourning doves for nearly a century in this state, but the Iowa House has endorsed the idea of allowing a dove hunting season here.

It’s welcome news to 78-year-old Lyle Goodrich of Indianola who’s gone to Missouri for the past 41 years to hunt doves.  “I’ve been a hunter my entire life and they’re the number one game bird in the United States,” Goodrich says.  “More people hunt doves than anything else.” 

That’s because there are plenty of doves to hunt, he says, and because doves test a hunter’s skill according to Doyle Adams, another 78-year-old from Indianola.  “They’re very erratic,” Adams says. “They’re a very difficult bird to hunt.”

Governor Branstad has promised to sign the bill into law.

“I tell you, I know somebody that wants to be here for the bill signing: my son, Marcus,” Branstad said this afternoon during an interview with Radio Iowa. “He is really excited about this. This kid loves to hunt, a lot of different species, and this is one more.”

Then, in a rare speech on the House floor this afternoon, Branstad reminisced about dove-hunting debates of the past. “I also was a state representative in 1973 when we brought the dove bill out of committee. I got more hate mail on that issue than anything else,” Branstad said, with a laugh.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that calls for a dove hunting season in Iowa and today House leaders used a complicated maneuver to pass that same legislation onto Branstad for his signature. Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, accused House Republican leaders of rushing the issue through so Iowans wouldn’t have a chance to voice their objections.

“In my opinion, that is not how you treat the Iowa public. They deserve better than that,” Mascher said. “They have a right to have their say. You’ve denied them that. That’s wrong.”

Others questioned whether dove hunting is merely for sport because there’s little “meat” on the bird.  Representative Richard Arnold, a Republican from Russell, responded. 

“I tend to disagree with you that they aren’t good to eat,” Arnold said, “because there’s nothing better to me — and I’ve hunted mourning doves — is to put six of these breasts, wrap ’em in bacon, put ’em on a bed of rice, pop ’em in the oven or, you know, put ’em on the grill and they’re really good. You ought to try ’em.”

Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, is an avid hunter, too. “I agree with Representative Arnold,” Baudler said. “They taste awfully good.”

Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines who owns several birds as pets, lamented the advent of an open season on mourning doves. “A little bird — a dove. I mean, what a sport that we’re going to go hunt a dove,” Adbul-Samad said. “I think it’d be different if we were going to go hunt a bear or something a little larger.”

A recent survey conducted for the Humane Society of the United States found 54 percent of Iowans oppose dove hunting and 25 percent support it.