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Iowa DNR Proposes Adjusting Deer Harvest Quotas In More Than 20 Counties

The Iowa DNR is looking to set new hunting quotas to regulate the population.

State biologists are considering increasing the number of antlerless deer that hunters can harvest in 11 counties next hunting season, while at the same time, decreasing the harvest quota in as many others. 
Hunters harvested nearly 94,000 deer around Iowa this past hunting season. State Auditor Rob Sand, an avid bowhunter who hunts in the Des Moines area, Decorah area and Madison County, said he filled all of his tags. He harvested three antlerless deer and a buck in the Des Moines area and a fifth deer in Madison County during the 2019-2020 hunting season.

“I think I had to spend a little bit more time in the stand this year to get my tags filled,” Sand said, about hunting in the Des Moines area. “But that’s just me. Whether or not everybody’s numbers look the same way, we’d have to see.”

The Iowa DNR says some areas have too many deer roaming around, while others have fewer. The state agency is looking to set new hunting quotas to regulate the population. The Iowa DNR revisits the antlerless deer quotas and trends with other animals like wild turkeys each year as it considers possible changes to hunting and trapping regulations.

The 11 counties where the Iowa DNR could allow hunters to take more deer include some areas where deer have been confirmed with chronic wasting disease, a contagious disease. Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek counties are three counties that have deer with CWD, where the DNR wants to increase the local hunting quota.

“Knowing what we know about how the disease spreads, we want to try to maintain those counties at the lower end of our population goal to help manage and reduce the spread of that disease,” said Tyler Harms, a wildlife biometrician and deer program leader for the Iowa DNR.

Harms said there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to managing deer in areas with chronic wasting disease. The DNR recommends decreasing the hunting quota to 300 deer (a decrease of 100) in Woodbury County, another county where the disease has been confirmed. Harms said based on monitoring, deer populations in Woodbury County are a little lower than the state would like them to be.

“This is a case where at the county scale, we want to try to allow the population to try to recover just a little bit," Harms said, "because we want to make sure that hunters are pleased with the opportunities that they’re having in Woodbury County."

During the first state hunting and trapping public meeting, which was held in Woodbury County earlier this week, a hunter asked about the Iowa DNR’s response after it found a roadkill deer in the south side of Sioux City had chronic wasting disease. Doug Chafa, a wildlife biologist in the DNR’s Missouri River Wildlife Unit, who ran the Woodbury County public meeting said the DNR put a 10 mile buffer around that deer after it first suspected the presence of the disease in that deer, and started taking a lot of samples from other deer in the area.

Another hunter brought up that they see a lot of does where they hunt in Plymouth County. Chafa said after the public meeting that getting feedback like this could help adjust the proposed quota changes.

“We’re listening to those, trying to adjust the antlerless quotas to meet those needs, and prove that we have good quality deer hunting and also not cause problems for automobile accidents and crop damages,” Chafa said.

The Iowa DNR is holding 16 more meetings across the state to take feedback from hunters. They'll consolidate some of the feedback they get into the regulations. Once new regulations have approval from the governor’s office, a conservation commission (and approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for waterfowl regulations), they will go into effect later this year for the 2020-2021 hunting season.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.