Be informed on new gun deer regulations

GUN DEER SEASONS beginning on Dec. 2-6 and Dec. 9-17 will allow what had been exclusively a shotgun only weapons regulation. That changes for 2017 with the allowance of straight wall ammunition choices. The regulations booklet page 31 lists what is allowed. The regulations are the result of legislation passed earlier this year. Hopefully the additional choices of allowed weapon choices for gun deer hunters will add an incentive to participate in deer herd management. The bulk of deer herd number reductions take place during deer gun seasons one and two.

Iowa may have as many as over 400,000 deer statewide prior to any archery, muzzle loader, youth or archery seasons. Hunters typically take about 100,000 when all the deer seasons wrap up on Jan. 10, 2018. Control and management of deer numbers is essential to maintain a balance between biological habitat carrying capacity and social carrying capacity. The first is much more science related. The second is definitely a perception issue of what constitutes too few, just right or too many deer in any particular region of Iowa.

When one looks at a map of Iowa that indicates county by county the number of antlerless deer allotted tags, northwest and north central Iowa have few if any antlerless tags during first gun season. In contrast northeast, eastern and southern Iowa have much larger antlerless tags quotas. Eastern and southern Iowa hilly terrain with more forest lands associated with smaller grain farm fields make for good deer habitat and thus more deer. It is a management goal of biologists with the Iowa DNR to enable hunters to reduce overall deer numbers in these places in proportion to the need.

Those hunters desiring to use handguns or rifles during 2017 deer hunts may choose straight wall ammo with non-expanding type bullets. Hunters age 16 and under may NOT use any handgun. Hunters ages 17-20 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse who is at least 21 years old to use a handgun.

This what the regulations state and it will be worth a hunter’s time to be fully aware of these rules.

Weapon choices during a gun deer hunt can be and should be a discretionary item for the hunter, as long as it is all within the guidelines established by law and set out in the Code of Iowa. A word or two about how this works for those that do not comply with the regulations is in order. And take special note that the Iowa Legislature made it clear in the language of the law they wrote what the penalties will be for non-compliance. They are stiff with consequences that are expensive and include confiscation of a firearm found not to be within the guidelines of the law.

Here is how a non-compliance situation may take place: A deer hunter participating in or just carrying a rifle chambered for cartridges with necked-down brass is in violation of this regulation. Hunting deer with a prohibited rifle will be written a citation by conservation officers. The fine is $250. A 35 percent surcharge is automatically added which in this case will be $87.50. Add court costs of $60 and now the total payout will be $397.50. But it does not stop there. The Code of Iowa requires a mandatory confiscation of the weapon! This is not a discretionary choice by the officer, so read the word mandatory again and again. Hunters have an obligation to always follow the law and DNR all regulations completely as a basic ethical manner of ones conduct while in the field. Take heed and do hunt deer, but do so within the letter of the law. Oh by the way, any deer taken illegally are also confiscated. Also according to this quote from Code section 805.8B “the hunting privileges of a person convicted of possessing a prohibited rifle while hunting deer shall be suspended for two years.”

Of course any and all questions prior deer gun seasons are best answered by visiting with a conservation officer. Make sure your know your obligations and responsibilities. For Marshall and Grundy counties, Tyson Brown is the DNR conservation officer. He can be contacted by phone at (641) 751-5246. He would prefer to not have to write citations for fish and game violations if everyone followed the law. However, and unfortunately, we all know a certain element of humanity will be non-compliant of any laws written. Slow learners beware. Ethical hunters will know the law and follow it with no problem.

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On the subject of deer and the nutritious venison they provide, one could call it ‘fast food’, or ‘organic’, or whatever. It tastes good when properly cared for in the field, at a locker or home butchering table, and cooked according to time-tested recipes for wild game. While the meat is a primary motive to hunt, the hides from deer are also valuable. Enter the Elks Clubs of Iowa, or the nation, whereby they collect deer hides each fall so that veterans can use the leather for projects. Deer hide leather gloves for those in need of wheelchair use are highly prized.

This year will be no different. Deer hide collection barrels will be placed at two Marshalltown locations, Kwik-Star on South 6th Street, and East Side Tire and Auto at 1206 E Main St. Look for the collection barrels later this month and during all of December. During 2015-16, more than 16,000 hides were collected by Elk lodges in 21 states. Those hides provided enough deer leather to make 3,100 sets of fingerless gloves for wheelchair bound persons. In addition, deer hides added up to 9,300 square feet of crafting leather and another 33,000 square feet for other crafting kits. The economic value of deer hide donations exceeds $400,000. And it is all free to veterans.

Deer hides that hunters have now and wish to donate later can be cleaned and frozen and delivered to a collection barrel later this month or during December. Any archers that take deer during warmer times have this option to participate. Freeze the hide, then deliver it during much colder weather to either Kwik-Star of East Side Auto. Thanks in advance for your help. Way to go Elks Club members.

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TREE STAND SAFETY is obvious. Falling from a tree is not a good thing, even if one lives to tell about it. Currently three cases of falls from stands are being investigated by Iowa DNR conservation officers. A Palo man fell and was injured in Linn County on Oct. 29. He slipped while climbing out of his stand, went 20 feet and landed on his back. He was transported to the University of Iowa Hospital. He is expected to survive.

Case No. 2: Near Dubuque on Nov. 4, a man fell 20 feet after an anchor strap broke on the stand. In addition he was not wearing a safety harness that could have restrained a fall from happening. Likewise, a third case in Adair County sent a Winterset man to the hospital after he was found at the base of a tree. He was conscious but in pain from his 20 foot fall. It appears that a strap on his stand broke. A lower strap was still intact.

Each of these cases illustrates several things: First, the need for a full body safety harness; Second, a fall restraint rope that prevents an inadvertent slip an subsequent hitting the ground; Third, inspect stand attachment chains or straps to maintain good condition. Fourth; never leave them attached to the tree all year long whereby sun, wind and rain can begin to rot the fibers of strap material. Fifth, use a separate haul line to pull the bow or firearm to your secured position after you are secured in the stand. Just reverse the process for getting out of the tree.

Safety for gun deer hunters, either at ground positions or as drivers to push deer in a general direction, need a plan of action. Plan a deer drive with everybody knowing their job, wearing lots of blaze orange vests or coats and hat, be always alert for the background behind an deer and if the target may be in line with a hunter on post. No deer is worth an injury to people from errant gun fire, or worst case scenario, death by accidental gunshot. Be careful out there.

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“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than that of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”

— Aldo Leopold, author of “The Sand County Almanac.”


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.