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Iowa shotgun deer season ahead

December 02, 2009 at 05:43 PM

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

With the weather this weekend expected to be a little more typical of December, Iowa’s first wave of shotgun season deer hunters steps into the woods.

Those two short seasons—December 5-9 or December 12-20 this year—are the primary management tools for Iowa’s deer herd. Just over 201,000 tags were purchased by shotgun hunters last year. About 80,000 whitetails were taken; 55 percent of the 2008-09 harvest.

“Populations will be similar to last year through northwestern and north-central Iowa. Deer populations are still above objectives in northeastern, southern and west central Iowa,” declares Tom Litchfield, Department of Natural Resources deer biologist.

Though hunters will still see good numbers, Litchfield says declines have been noticed in much of southern and eastern Iowa.  “We look at several different surveys to judge (populations) regionally. Even after a five percent decline, it shows up in our surveys,” says Litchfield. “After the deer herd has declined about 15 or 20 percent, we start hearing feedback from hunters.”

He still urges hunters to keep up the push in southern and northeastern counties, as well as west-central Iowa, throughout the overall deer season. “We definitely still need to have lots of does taken. Hunters taking one or two does? That will help out the landowners and (management) objectives,” Litchfield stresses.

For the next three weeks, the focus is on the shotgun season. Iowa’s party hunt tradition mobilizes a pretty efficient force of deer hunters. Blockers, or standers, set up near deer exit points on drives ranging from a couple hundred yards to a mile or more. Drivers move slowly toward them, pushing deer ahead. With a safe backdrop, blockers target deer moving to or past them

To take advantage of the deer’s flight instinct, hunters should offset the whitetail’s superb sense of smell. When able, deer will escape into the wind, to best keep track of danger, across the wind if it must. Blockers set up just out of nose-range can be pretty effective. It helps, too, if they don’t move or make a sound…since a deer’s vision and hearing rank right behind its sense of smell.

Standing corn could be a wild card. Combines have been rolling even after dark this week, to get the last of Iowa’s ’09 crop in. However, even a couple acres left standing provide pretty effective cover for deer.

Wildlife officials suggest hunters look for the ‘out of the way’ spots, too; especially after deer have been pushed for a couple days. A CRP field…maybe a grassy terrace or weedy fencerow can pay off, if it’s a place hunters traditionally overlook.

A slowly growing number of Iowa hunters prefer to go it alone; maybe in a deer stand, ground blind or fence line with a longer-reaching muzzleloader.  Hunting those deer ‘funnel’ points….or maybe where they circle back or come out to feed near dark often pays off…without all the walking.

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