A report on the Iowa deer herd

March 31, 2009 at 12:55 PM

An advisory committee appointed by the 2008 Iowa Legislature to examine Iowa’s deer management program has issued its recommendations in their report presented to the legislature earlier this month.  The committee, consisting of a cross section of Iowa business, agriculture, conservation, government and legislators met last fall to take a hard look at Iowa’s deer herd.

The purpose of the committee was to study the best way to maintain a sustainable, socially acceptable deer population in the state while maximizing and balancing the economic value of deer hunting to Iowa’s economy with the needs of the agricultural industry and public safety concerns.

The committee developed six questions at its first meeting that would be the focus for future meetings.  Those questions were what is the status of Iowa’s deer population, harvest and population management programs; the economic impact and value of Iowa’s deer population; the cost of damage to crops caused by deer; the number and cost of motor vehicle accidents caused by deer; a review of the deer management challenges and programs of other Midwestern states; and an assessment of public opinion concerning the number of deer and the impact and value of Iowa’s deer population.

The committee used information from those questions to form their recommendations for Iowa’s deer policy.  The group reached consensus on 16 recommendations. 

Here is a draft copy of the report:

The committee determined that current seasons and regulations are appropriate to manage Iowa’s deer population however they recommend that where herd management goals have not been met, that the department should keep all options available, including new harvest strategies to quickly achieve goals.  It recommended more frequent surveys of hunters, producers and other stakeholders on deer damage and desired population levels. 

It also recognized that the HUSH program is a vital component of Iowa’s deer management program and should have funding to pay the actual cost of processing the deer. 
The committee supports making permanent the three additional temporary wildlife depredation staff. 

The committee advised the DNR to work closely with the DOT to stay current on techniques to reduce deer vehicle crashes and with the Department of Agriculture to develop information to help Iowa producers reduce deer damage.

Other recommendations included finding ways to connect landowners with hunters willing to hunt their property and to improve access to private land for hunters willing to harvest does. Another recommendation was to ban the practice of feeding or baiting deer.

Finally, the committee recommended that the DNR meet annually with this group and additional stakeholders to review progress on the issues identified in the report needed to successfully manage Iowa’s deer population for all Iowans. 

The one issue the committee did not meet consensus on was to allow the DNR to have the authority to set all deer quotas.

Randy Taylor, of Reasnor, represented the Iowa Bowhunters Association.  Taylor, who has been bowhunting deer in Iowa for more than 30 years, said when the meetings first began that he felt it was one sided against the hunter.  But as time went on, people listened to each other and to the information at each meeting.  Members were given assignments to gather information that they had to report on in the following meeting and, Taylor said, the committee members did a great job.

“I thought it was a really good process,” Taylor said.  People voted on what they thought for the recommendations and the committee accomplished what it set out to do, he said.

William Beers, with the Iowa Farm Bureau, said he was pleased to be a part of the legislature’s interim deer study advisory committee, and hoped to continue working on developing the implementation steps for the recommendations in the coming year, but emphasized there is more work to be done.

Beers said he look’s forward to working with the department to develop a pilot program using an ad hoc committee to allow landowners a more equitable share of the economic benefit of deer hunting, land access, and management.

“In addition, we need better information on the economic impacts of deer in Iowa. The impacts deer are having on field crops, vegetables and produce for farmers’ markets, and property damage need attention, too,” Beers said.

“We need to have more discussion of harvest success and results for each type of license. For example, do we only increase the number of antlerless resident licenses in a given gun season? How do we get more hunters to use these licenses successfully? Or do we work to increase the numbers of successful hunters in one or both gun seasons? Do we need a longer gun season or seasons? These are questions that deserve more thoughtful examination,” Beers said.

Committee appointees included the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Conservation Alliance, Iowa Farmer’s Union, Iowa County Conservation Boards, Iowa Insurance Institute, Iowa DOT, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Woodland Owner’s Association, Iowa Sierra Club, Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association, Iowa Bowhunters Association, Iowa Meat Processors Association, Iowa Department of Economic Development, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Rep. Henry Rayhons, Iowa Rep. McKinley Bailey, Iowa Sen. Dennis Black, Iowa Sen. Mark Zieman, and Ken Herring, chair, Iowa Department of Natural Resources.