Deer by the numbers

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG White-tailed deer filter into a food plot last weekend, January 9th, at about one hour prior to sunset. These deer were on private land in southern Marion County, IA. This author was there as an invited guest to assist in taking more doe deer off the property. So I did that by taking two on licenses I had available and ready to use. My two made a very small dent in the population in this area. The landowner has a good feel for the total number of deer in his forest. Hunters are a management tool to reduce deer numbers. Southern Iowa counties have historically large antlerless quota for deer tags available for purchase. Statewide total deer harvest numbers will easily exceed 110,00 by the end of regular season and even more will be added by the end of several special late January seasons in a few selected counties which are part of chronic wasting disease control efforts.

DEER NUMBERS and DNR management programs to focus on herd reduction is a huge and complicated business for wildlife biologists. Iowa has 99 counties and 56,272.81 square miles within its borders. Within these borders various landscapes and terrains exist that fill a wide array of topographic features. You can picture the way landscapes define a county. Marshall for instance has lots of relatively flat to gently rolling fields. And we also have a good number of stream and river channels with forested edges.

Now envision portions of northwest Iowa where the land may be even flatter and seemingly devoid of changes to its form. Western Iowa has the Loess Hills near the Missouri River. That wind blown super fine silt sized particles have piled up over the course of thousands of years to create a rugged topography. Northeast Iowa has limestone canyons exposed by eons of natural erosion which break into the wide valley of the Mississippi River. And southern Iowa has lots of hilly ground, large forest blocks and smaller upland farm land fields. Iowa is diverse in its lands and diverse in the habitats that white-tailed deer utilize.

With Iowa’s mix of habitats, deer populations reflect habitats remaining on the land. Southern Iowa has lots of deer compared to northern parts of the state. A brief look at the map of antlerless quotas, page 8 of the DNR regulations booklet, shows the disparity county by county. In other words, deer are not equally distributed in Iowa. Eastern Iowa, and the lower one-third of southern Iowa dominate in deer numbers. A brief look at page 34 of the regulations booklet shows where late season hunts will be held from January 16-24th. Hunters wanting to participate could find it to their advantage to visit with local game wardens before you go.

HARVEST DATA ON DEER for 2020-21 keeps rolling in. Mandatory harvest recording allows hunters to easily add statistics about numbers to biologists and managers. As of mid week total deer taken is nearing 110,000. A break down of how that number is derived shows 48,611 adult deer does and 2,446, young -of-the-year does. Adult male deer records tally 48,668. And then there are additional categories for button bucks (young -of-the-year bucks) at 8,614. As per usual there is one more category. It is for bucks whose antlers have already naturally fallen off their skull plates. They are called shed bucks and that number is 955.

Marshall County deer hunters have reported 230 doe deer, 10 fawn does, 341 bucks, 27 button bucks and 3 shed antlered bucks for a total of 611 as of last Tuesday. Within these numbers are several deer taken within the city limits of Marshalltown as part of the urban deer hunting program. This program was set up 10 years ago to help address deer who like living close to or inside the city. The emphasis is on taking adult doe deer since it is their twin offspring that can easily grow deer numbers if left unchecked. For 2020-21, nine doe deer were taken. And incentive tags for antlered deer in the city, if earned by taking three doe deer, allows the hunter to harvest a buck. Three buck tags were issued and three bucks were taken. Two hunters have already enough doe deer to earn credits for an incentive buck tag for the 2021-22 season.

Across the state in many large to medium sized urban areas, deer numbers are being managed to match the need. And some have been at it for along time like the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area where deer hunts have a 30 year history. It works.

DEER STANDS on public lands, state or county, are required to be removed within seven days of the close of the season. So this weekend is that time frame for hunters to take their equipment off the tree, pack it up and pack it out. Make sure to thank the land owner for allowing you to hunt. And providing some venison meat packages is also an excellent gesture of appreciation. In addition, before those stands are put away into storage, make a detailed inspection of all attachment points to make sure it will be ready next fall. Safety is always a great thing to strive for. Be prepared and be ready.

IOWA DEER CLASSIC is a sports show held annually at Hy-Vee Hall and Event Center in Des Moines. For 2021 the dates are March 5-7th. And to answer a frequently asked question, yes, the Deer Classic Show will be held. So prepare for attending the show this year. Yes, all the public will have to exercise wise choices in light of Covid-19 happenings. But life needs to go on and people are adapting as best they can.

Everything deer and deer hunting related will be at the show. Hundreds of vendors will showcase their products and services. Out of state outfitters will offer opportunities to come hunt with them and give you dates and price options to consider. And of course there is always one big draw for the people to see…Iowa’s Big Buck Contest. This is a popular activity whereby boys, girls, moms and dads bring deer antlers and deer mounts to exhibit. Official scores are made for those deer that need scoring, and on Sunday March 7th at about 3 pm, awards will be made to hunters young and old for the top entries in various categories. If you have never attended the Iowa Deer Classic, mark the dates of March 5-7th to come see for yourself. It is fun for the entire family. Go for it.

Quote: “For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the sheltered will never know.”

— Theodore Roosevelt


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