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Statewide deer take passes 90,000

December 17, 2011
By GARRY BRANDENBURG , Times-Republican

URBAN DEER HUNTS are quite common in many cities in Iowa. In fact, quite a few other Midwestern and eastern states also employ this process to take overpopulations of deer out of urban "refuge" areas. The problem associated with too many deer munching on ornamental and garden goodies is well documented. Collisions with vehicles can also be serious business. The track record within Iowa cities has proven that archers can help lower deer numbers. Female deer will always be the primary focus of urban hunts. The "buck incentive option" is a very very low percentage of available tags for those that qualify.

2009 was the first year for Marshalltown to begin the urban archery hunt. All went well with good cooperation with property owners and hunters. Ditto for 2010 and 2011.The number of deer to be put on the ledger by the end of January 2012 is still unknown. For each adult doe removed, her twin fawns of next year will not be there to add to the potential exponential growth. In the same way that a livestock farmer limits the number of animals he/she raises based on available land and feed stocks, a deer herd without hunting is a deer herd that can double in two to three years time, each year after that the numbers would continue to double again. The public will not tolerate this scenario and the DNR knows it. So the best option has always been to employ sport hunters to keep deer numbers on a more even keel.

Deer from any hunter can be donated to the HUSH program. HUSH is an acronym for Help Us Stop Hunger. The venison is ground into hamburger, two pound packages, and donated through Iowa's food distribution system to shelters for people. The State Center Locker has already processed over 1,000 pounds of venison this year, an amount provided by about 28 deer. On average, one adult doe deer will yield 42 pounds of venison burger. By the end of January, the locker will expect to have processed about 35 deer for HUSH. The House of Compassion is the local recipient.

Article Photos

Seth Davis of Marshalltown, one of only two city bow hunters to have a buck incentive tag, took this deer recently. Seth qualified for one of the incentive tags by taking at least three doe deer before Oct. 31. To date, Seth has taken five doe deer, and this nice buck. Of the dozen or so city qualified archers, they have collectively taken twenty doe deer, three button bucks and Seth’s buck for a total of 24 deer. Marshalltown’s urban archery only deer hunt is on-going through the end of January 2012.  


The second season SHOTGUN DEER days will end tomorrow, Sunday the 18th of December. Over 90,000 deer have been reported statewide as of midweek and Marshall County rural areas have contributed over 650 to that total. Deer biologist Tom Litchfield expects by the end of all seasons in late January that deer killed will be about 120,000, or a ten percent decrease from last year. The decrease is due to the fact that there are fewer deer overall within the state, a trend line that has had a slow but steady decline since peak times of 2005-06. Deer management is working.

Iowa will have a late January antlerless season from Jan. 11 to 29 is several select counties primarily in southern parts of the state. Licenses for that special season went on sale Dec. 15, just two days ago. This season is open to all hunters regardless of any other deer licenses previously obtained. Shotguns, muzzle loaders, archery, handguns or center fire rifles are permitted. It is a hunter's choice situation.


Here is an interesting deer story from the state of Illinois. A deer hunter shot a big antlered animal. In fact it had a very large set of antlers with about 30 scorable points. It was taken during the firearms season near Mount Erie, IL along the Little Wabash River. Surprise! This was not a buck. It was a doe deer! Yes folks, a female deer with an impressive antler system. Biologists know it can happen to a very small percentage of the population, about one in every 4,500 deer.


Dec. 15 is also the date when all 2012 DNR fish, trapping and hunting licenses went on sale. For the outdoors person on your Christmas list, a few crisp $20 dollar bills may go a long way help them procure all the needed licenses for the new year.


FISHING will be wide open at Silver Lake in northern Iowa's Worth County from now until Oct.15, 2012. The 316 acre lake will be drained to allow work on a new water control structure and fish barrier. Relaxed fishing regulations are now in effect to allow people to take as many fish as they can of any and all sizes. When the construction work is done, the lake will be allowed to refill and a new stocking of sport fishes made.

Somewhere down the road in a few years, this same process may have to be employed by the Marshall County Conservation Board at the Green Castle Recreation Area. This 16 acre lake has been carp free for many decades, until someone or something introduced carp into its waters. Unfortunately this was most likely the unauthorized use of "minnows" from unknown sources when a few fishermen used them as bait. Minnows are prohibited bait at this lake since it opened to the public in 1977. The future option will include a drastic drawdown of the water level, poisoning the remaining fish, refilling the lake and restocking. No firm dates have been decided but it is on the list of things to do by the MCCB. Stay tuned.


BIRDERS are flocking to southeast Tennessee to see a rare bird, the Hooded Crane. Its normal range is Southeast Asia, China and Japan. So to have one way off course and in Tennessee means that many avid birders with a life-list hobby, can now travel to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County to see it. The cost to travel to Tennessee is far cheaper than air fare to Asia.

Birds from other continents sometimes do get way off course. When they do, the odds are great that bird watchers will take serious note of the event. And in today's world of the internet, no secret stays secret for longer than a nano-second. Iowa's Saylorville Lake had a unique bird species several years ago that didn't belong in America. But it was here so wildlife watchers reported it. People from the west and east coast were flying commercial airlines to Des Moines and renting cars, buying food, renting hotel rooms and driving about Saylorville to find that special bird. We will take the boost to the economy anytime, and all because of a bird. I like it.


Did you know that Iowans spend over $300 million each year watching wildlife? This includes travel time, gas, and big part of it is bird seed for backyard feeders. You wouldn't think that little bags of sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts and suet cakes could add up to the number mentioned above, but it does. Sunflower seeds are a big agribusiness venture for farmers in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas.

It is a special connection that people develop with wildlife, in this case birds, right in our backyards. Songbirds at your window will entertain all winter long if the money is spent for bird food to keep them coming. If you add water that is kept warm with a heater, birds will drink and bathe even in the chill of a winter day. Keep watching and enjoy nature's ways while you do.


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 PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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