Governor Branstad has just signed the bill which lets the Department of Natural Resources establish a dove hunting season in Iowa. 

With a decline in both the state’s pheasant population and in applications for pheasant hunting licenses, Branstad said a dove hunting season may help provide more sporting opportunities for hunters.

“I think it’ll be good for the Iowa economy, certainly something hunters have wanted for a long time,” Branstad said in an interview immediatelyafter he signed the bill into law.

Branstad’s youngest son, Marcus Branstad, is an avid hunter who attended this afternoon’s bill signing ceremony in the governor’s formal statehouse office. 

“You know, my dad brought this bill out of committee when he was a freshman in 1973,” the younger Branstad said. “And more than three decades later he gets to see it become a reality. I really enjoy it. I can’t wait to hunt doves with him this fall.”

The elder Branstad, who was a member of the Iowa House nearly four decades ago, voted for the bill back then when it was considered by a committee, but a deluge of public sentiment doomed the dove hunting bill that year.

“That was 1973, my first year in the legislature, but I’m pleased to be able to sign it and in the meantime, every state surrounding Iowa has a dove hunting season,” Branstad says. “and now we’ll have the opportunity here.”

It’s been illegal to shoot mourning doves in Iowa for nearly a century, but the Iowa House took extraordinary measures yesterday to pass the bill 24 hours after the senate had endorsed it, a move House Speaker Kraig Paulsen defends.

“The (House) clearly supported the bill, I mean, that was unquestioning. The (House) made a decision to move quickly,” Paulsen told reporters late this morning. “That’s something that has been done in the past.  It will be something that will probaby be done in the future.”

To act that quickly, a majority of the House members voted to take a bill that had been about raccoon hunting and turn it into the dove hunting bill.  Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley put it this way: “The raccoon bill sprouted wings.” 

McKinley held the speedy passage of the dove bill through both the House and Senate as evidence of how things should work in the legislature.”I think Iowans would like to see more bipartisan action as was evident in the passage of the dove bill,” McKinley said. 

It took a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to pass the legislation in both the House and Senate. Critics, like Tom Colvin of the Iowa Federation of Humane Societies, say the bill was fast-tracked for one single reason.

“I think it was carefully orchestrated in such a fashion to make sure that there was a minimal amount of opportunity for Iowans to voice their opinions to their legislators,” Colvin said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

Iowa is one of 10 states in which it is illegal to hunt mourning doves.  Colvin, the president of the Iowa Federation of Humane Societies, said people are fond of these birds.    

“They represent kind of the serenity of rural Iowa and it’s also something that people in urban environments,” Colvin says. “It evokes a lot of emotion.”

Colvin predicts there’ll be a major push to repeal the dove hunting law.  Senator Dick Dearden, a Democrat from Des Moines, doubts the law will be repealed.

“Five or six years from now, it’ll be so common that there won’t be any hard feelings over the dove hunting and people will accept it and know that it’s just another part of hunting and we’ll all get together again,” Dearden said this afternoon. “But right now there’s a lot of emotion out there and hurt feelings and I’m sure that those things will fade in time.”

Dearden was the bill’s chief cheerleader in the senate, trying on two other occasions to get it passed before his success this week.