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Iowa firearm deer hunt on par with past

December 08, 2009 at 12:26 PM

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Hunters have gone from autumn to winter through Iowa’s first shotgun deer season. Snow moving in by Monday morning erased the brown background and mild weather of the opening weekend, when up to 90,000 hunters were expected in the woods.

“I saw quite a few hunters out; sometimes groups of six to ten…other spots, just a couple hunters,” noted Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Erika Billerbeck. She patrolled Johnson County through the weekend. “Most groups had one or two deer when I checked them. I saw mostly does; a few bucks.”

Some weekend hunters commented that they’d hold out for a nice buck during the weekend, but take a doe before the Wednesday afternoon close of the first season. Others used antlerless tags to take a couple whitetails. In 77 Iowa counties, 131,600 county-specific antlerless tags have been offered this fall and winter to help reduce deer numbers. Far northeast, west central and southern Iowa are where more of the tags are available.

In the Cedar River corridor of southeast Iowa, officers had 197 contacts on opening day, working under a spotting plane. Acting district supervisor Shawn Meier was calling down locations. “Hunters were seeing some success. Some seemed to be holding out (for a buck) on that first day,” reports Meier. “It was not a ‘normal’ opener with the mild weather.”

Overall, hunter compliance was good…though he points out his officers did write a few tickets for ‘uncased guns.’ “Hunters need to remember, that gun has to be unloaded and secured in its case when being transported on the road,” emphasizes Meier.

In northeast Iowa, another air and ground combination seemed to see fewer hunters. “The groups didn’t seem as big this year. That could have been because of crops still in the field; maybe hunters waiting to buy tags until the second season?” wonders DNR supervisor Jennifer Lancaster. “Hunters were getting deer. They were working for them, though.”

Chapter Two of Iowa’s shotgun deer season opens Saturday with a more traditional snow cover on the ground as about 50,000 more hunters pursue Iowa’s big game whitetail. That second season runs through two weekends, ending December 20.

The shotgun seasons represent the primary management tool for controlling Iowa’s deer herd. Last year, over just 14 days, shotgun hunters harvested 80,000 deer; about 55 percent of the total, when harvest numbers from youth, disabled, muzzleloader, bow and special late November and January seasons.

Hunters are reminded to report their harvested deer. That plays a big role in management of deer populations and future hunting opportunities. Only hunters who tag a deer need call it in…either via internet ( ) or by phone (800-771-4692).

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