New Changes In Store for Deer Hunters In 2005-06

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Iowa hunters will be encouraged to take more antlerless deer in the upcoming season, with a three-day gun hunt in late November and with center fire rifles being allowed in southern Iowa, during seven days in January. The state's Natural Resources Commission also approved 19,000 additional county antlerless tags, 41 special management zone deer hunts and adjustments in the landowner tag program.

Though noting there would be some disagreement to the November gun season and the southern Iowa rifle season, Department of Natural Resources deer biologist Willy Suchy says the adjustments are necessary to reduce deer numbers in underharvested areas, specifically in southern Iowa. "We are adding the (November gun) season to precede the first shotgun season. Traditionally, first season hunters don't take as many does," explained Suchy. Tags for the hunt - to be held the Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving -- will not be available until Nov. 12 and must come from any remaining tags in a county's antlerless quota. Suchy noted that most counties with tags remaining then have been across southern Iowa, with a few northeast Iowa counties also. Any firearm legal for use in other seasons (shotgun, muzzleloader, handgun) as well as bows could be used with the November tags. A landowner could also use one of two landowner tags in the three-day period.

The rifle hunt would apply only to the southern two tiers of counties in Iowa, and only during the seven-day extension of the January antlerless season. A rifle must be .24 caliber or larger and cannot contain more than six rounds in the chamber and magazine.

"We want to direct pressure to southern Iowa and to northeast Iowa, where numbers are higher," urged Suchy, noting that other areas of Iowa are at, or closing in on, deer management goals. "Most counties in southern Iowa (though) did not sell out their allotments of antlerless tags last year. We need to substantially increase our deer harvest in southern Iowa to meet our goal."

DNR staff emphasized to the Commission that the two new seasons are not seen as permanent. "We are at the point in southern and northeast Iowa where we have to do something different to reduce the number of does. Simply increasing antlerless license quotas does not work there," emphasized wildlife bureau chief Dale Garner, noting legislative pressure in the last couple years to reduce deer numbers. "As deer come under control, we plan to go back to the traditional deer seasons as long as they keep deer numbers at desired levels.

The Commission also approved a 19,000 tag increase in county-by-county quotas. About 40 of Iowa's 99 counties will see an increase, with 103,000 available overall. Additionally, special management zone hunts were approved for 41 areas (up from 28 last season); ranging from state and county parks to urban areas. That includes three youth instructional gun hunts this November.