Hunters Harvested More Than 180,000 Deer

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Iowa hunters harvested a record 182,000 deer during the 2003 - 2004 Iowa deer season, breaking the previous record of 140,000 set last year. The increase in the deer harvest was overwhelmingly due to hunters taking antlerless deer. Hunters harvested 34,000 more antlerless deer than last year.

"Our hunters really responded to our call to harvest more does," said Richard Bishop, chief of the DNR's wildlife bureau. "This is the first time we've ever had more does harvested than bucks."

The DNR had 53,000 antlerless only deer permits available and sold nearly all of them. Deer hunters will have the opportunity to harvest even more antlerless only deer in 2004 - 2005 when the DNR issues an additional 30,000 antlerless permits, bringing the total to 84,000.

This was also the first year of the Help Us Stop Hunger program where deer hunters could donated extra deer to a participating locker that would process the deer. With the help of the Food Bank of Iowa, the high quality meat was distributed to Iowans in need.

"This harvest is having an impact on deer populations, understanding that it will take at least three years of increased harvest of does to see a significant reduction in deer numbers," Bishop said.

The deer population in some counties is within the desired level while some counties are far above the numbers of deer the DNR would like to see, he said. "We will need to maintain cooperation of hunters harvesting more does, as well as landowners insisting that hunters take additional does," Bishop said. "Landowners with deer problems need to have hunting on their land during all gun seasons, and they need to concentrate on harvesting does, if they want to make an impact."

In areas of good landowner-hunter cooperation, the DNR is seeing deer numbers declining, while other areas with restricted hunting are showing increased deer populations. The key is cooperation and harvest.

"We need to have hunters and landowners as part of the solution," Bishop said.

The increase in deer harvest also means more hunters were in the field more often, which is good news for rural Iowa businesses. The 2001 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey estimates that hunters in Iowa spend an average of $291 per year hunting deer, meaning the 180,000 deer hunters spent more than $52 million on licenses, motels, groceries, supplies, restaurants, and other items in rural Iowa.