116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The number of deer felled by hunters in recent months in Iowa totaled more than 89,000 at the conclusion of the state’s shotgun seasons, about 6 percent shy of last year’s total after those seasons, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“We’ve harvested between 100,000-110,000 (deer) every year since 2013, and I suspect we’ll be close to 100,000 again this year,” said Tyler Harms, an Iowa DNR wildlife research biometrician.
Bow and muzzleloader seasons conclude Jan. 10. A non-resident holiday season is also underway and ends Sunday.
Harms said that range of annual harvests has held the state’s deer population about stable. Final counts are expected in January.
The Iowa DNR monitors the state’s deer numbers with deer counts along about 4,750 miles of roadways, reports from bow hunters who sit for hours in tree stands, deer killed on rural highways and reports of deer-related crashes to the Iowa Department of Transportation.
The Iowa DNR recently announced a special two-week hunting season in January in five counties with larger deer populations and known cases of chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease that mostly affects deer and elk.
The department made available nearly 5,000 antlerless deer licenses for the counties of Allamakee, Appanoose, Decatur, Wayne and Winneshiek. The season is open Jan. 11-23.
The disease was first detected in the far northeast part of the state in 2013. Since then, infected deer have been found in a total of 11 counties, according to an Iowa DNR report in September.
The state’s deer population declined significantly in the first decade of this century when hunters killed deer at about double the current rate. The estimated deer harvest in 2005, for example, was more than 211,000, the agency said.
Those numbers were bolstered by a special January season in the southern two tiers of counties that allowed the use of high-power rifles to target antlerless deer. The special season ended in 2014, Harms said.
The state’s deer population was mostly stable from 2013 to 2017 and has been slightly increasing in recent years, the report said.
Deer were all but eradicated from Iowa in the 1800s when they were killed with impunity for food and fur. In 1898, hunting deer was outlawed. About 50 years later, there were an estimated 10,000 deer in Iowa, and the first modern hunting season opened in December 1953.
Last year, hunters killed about 109,500 deer. About 52 percent of those deer were harvested during the two December shotgun seasons. Bow hunters accounted for about 22 percent of the total; deer killed by muzzleloader hunters were about 12 percent of the total.
This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.