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Dearden Retires; Championed Hunting of Mourning Doves

Joyce Russell/IPR
Sen. Dick Dearden (D-Des Moines) and his wife Sharon

A state senator best known for leading a long and controversial fight to legalize the hunting of mourning doves said farewell to the Iowa Senate today. 

Des Moines Democrat and avid hunting enthusiast Dick Dearden is retiring after 20 years in the legislature. 

In remarks to his fellow Senators, Dearden recalls leading passage of the dove hunting bill three times before it finally became law in 2011. 

He remembers what he calls one of his favorite e-mails from an animal rights enthusiast:

“This woman wrote, she says, you’re a sick old man,” Dearden said.  “I hope you die of a heart attack hunting mourning doves.”

Dearden e-mailed the woman back.

“So do I,” he wrote.     

Governor Vilsack vetoed one dove-hunting bill, but Governor Branstad signed it into law at the next attempt.  The issue attracted hundreds of men and women in hunting gear to the capitol to push for the bill.

Dearden was also instrumental in passing a constitutional amendment to create the state’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.  

He recalled other votes during his long tenure including voting against restoring the death penalty and against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Dearden is a retired labor leader. He and his wife Sharon are long-time Polk County Democratic activists.

Dearden’s daughter Pam Dearden Connor is a candidate to succeed her father in Senate District 16 representing the east side of Des Moines.