Deer Hunting Opportunities Increase

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Deer hunters this fall and winter will be able to purchase more licenses, and have an extra season for hunting in most of the state. Licenses for the fall/winter deer seasons and fall turkey season are now on sale.

The special late season, January 11-18, has been expanded from the southern couple tiers of counties to statewide. The state Natural Resource Commission (NRC) also approved an additional 30,150 antlerless deer tags, and allowing hunters in the early muzzleloader season, first shotgun or disabled hunter season to purchase an additional antlerless tag. The changes stem from 2003 legislative action and increased deer population.

"Our surveys showed the population up about 10 percent, after last season," explains Willy Suchy, wildlife biologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "By putting more antlerless tags in each county and by expanding that late January season to all the state, we can deal with it that way."

The later January season in the south and the sale of antlerless tags were established several years ago, to increase the harvest of does. A hunter's first tag costs $26. Each additional tag is $11. Each county in the late season had a specific number of tags available. "Last year, the January season sold out in every county," says Suchy. "This spreads that availability to the rest of the state. It might take away from some of those southern counties, though, if hunters decide to stay closer to home to hunt antlerless deer."

The addition of antlerless tags for early muzzleloader and first shotgun season hunters is another incentive to take does. Traditionally, more hunters pass up does for bucks in those seasons. "This provides an opportunity for them to take the first doe they see. That provides them with venison. They can still go for the trophy buck," assesses Suchy, saying it could also reduce the harvest of yearling bucks, allowing for more trophy class bucks in years ahead. The upcoming late September-early October hunt for disabled hunters also offers the extra antlerless tag option.

The NRC approval for additional county antlerless tags pushes the quota to 53,500 statewide. A hunter can now purchase three such tags, instead of two. "The added season and tags are a good response," offers Loren Forbes, vice-president of the Iowa Wildlife Federation. "We need to get the idea across to hunters that taking more does is the most effective way to control Iowa's deer herd." Forbes foresees an increase in venison donations and 'hunters helping the hungry' type campaigns.

The NRC also approved special deer hunts in 22 locations; primarily parks and urban areas where high deer populations cannot be dealt with through regular hunting seasons. They range from a 500 tag quota across all seasons in Linn County to a 35 tag archery zone at Lake Manawa State Park. The special hunts target antlerless deer, although an increasing number feature several 'any sex' tags available, as incentives. An 'any sex' tag allows a hunter to try for a buck, after taking a doe.