DEER are a major big game animal in Iowa. They draw a lot of interest from hunters each year as the lure of being outdoors in the crisp autumn air rekindles hunting instincts. Managing the overall deer population in Iowa is not an easy job for DNR biologists and wildlife bureau personnel. There is the biological potential for deer to reproduce in numbers so large over time that they may become a nuisance. Rather than have wild swings of ups and downs in deer numbers, strategies to take off a correct number of surplus animals each fall is the goal. By the end of all deer seasons in late January, 2013, the remaining deer will be sufficient to have a stabilized population.
According to Dale Garner, DNR Chief of the Wildlife Bureau, "deer hunters can be proud of the role they fill in managing a world class deer herd. Following a plan embraced by our hunters, the herd size was brought down to mid-1990s levels, a goal set many years ago by a deer task force." They reported to the DNR and the Iowa legislature of how the plan would work and the time it would take to accomplish a lower stabilized deer herd. Now the next steps each year involve cooperation with landowners to adjust the local doe harvest. Each situation maybe a bit different. Hunters talking with farmers helps everyone.
DNR regulations for deer hunters is one tool to help direct hunting pressure to places where it is needed most. In addition, fewer licenses in some parts of Iowa will allow the deer in those areas to maintain their numbers. Garner also notes that past experiences with the mandatory deer harvest reporting process is slipping. Overall the reporting has been very good. Hunters need to understand how vital it is to provide accurate data to the biologists on deer actually taken by gun or bow. This fall hunters can expect to see an additional emphasis by conservation officers at game check points or local locker plants to check for compliance with deer tagging requirements and the harvest reporting portion of the tagging system. Violators of this simple and important process may be issued court citations. Hunters that have been doing the right thing for many years know how it works. For those that want to cut corners, cheat, or violate the law, a great bit of advice is this ... just do the right thing and follow the law.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Deer seasons begin today. There are three categories: youth, disabled hunter and urban deer zones. Youth deer season is open to Iowa residents who are less than 16 years old. They must be under direct supervision of an adult mentor who has a valid hunting license and habitat fee. Severely Disabled Iowa residents have had to obtain approval and a permit application from the DNR. These earliest of deer seasons is from Sept. 15 through the 30. And many Iowa cities are beginning their respective urban doe deer hunts beginning today.
Garner adds "Managing Iowa's deer herd has always been a cooperative effort between hunters, landowners and the DNR. By working together, we can keep this great resource the envy of the world."
Deer can come down with a variety of diseases. Prominent in the news now is CWD, or Chronic Wasting Disease, a brain prion abnormality that is lethal for deer. While all the states surrounding Iowa have had reported cases of CWD in past years, Iowa has remained free of the disease. Or so we thought. At this time the disease in within high fence facilities. Wild deer on the outside do not mix with the captive deer.
This summer, in Davis County, a privately run deer farm with high fences, had some of its deer become ill. The diagnosis was chronic wasting disease. This set in motion a large investigation and fact finding process to learn more. The results are now in. Here they are.
An agreement has been reached with the owner of Pine Ridge Hunting Lodge to depopulate the facility of all deer and elk within the next several months. The agreement was signed by DNR Director Chuck Gipp and the owner of Pine Ridge Lodge. Gipp stated "we are very pleased with the agreement and we want to commend the owners for working with us in taking this important step needed to help contain the spreading of CWD." There are a lot of terms to the agreement that must be followed that include allowing fall hunts by clients previously booked, and getting biological samples of all animals within 12 hours. Only clean skull plates and capes will be allowed to leave the facility. A refrigerated truck will be provided by Pine Ridge to store carcasses until CWD tests are concluded. In addition, Pine Ridge must pay for all costs related to CWD tests and proper disposal of carcasses. A 3-D electric fence will be installed inside the facility with its costs equally shared by the owner and DNR. Lastly a future operations plan will be developed after all the current animals are gone.
Iowa tests for CWD in deer since 2002 have sent 42,557 tissue samples to the lab. Up to this time, all test results have been negative. The original emphasis for test samples was from northeast Iowa where the potential for Wisconsin deer known to have the disease was greatest. But all CWD tests in the last two decades have also included samples from all over Iowa. With the new case in Davis County, wild deer in southern Iowa will have additional tissue samples taken during the 2012-13 seasons.
CWD is a neurological disease that only affects deer, elk and moose. It is caused by an abnormal protein, called a prion, which affects the brain of infected animals. It causes them to loose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. Signs are excessive salivation, thirst and urination, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head. There is no evidence that CWD can spread to humans, pets or domestic livestock. Within the cervids however (deer family exclusively), CWD can be transferred from animal to animal through contact with bodily excretions. Saliva is one known vector mechanism. The protein prior can also remain in the soil of an infected area and spread to healthy deer many years later.
ASK THE GAME WARDEN: Is it legal to put our bait for deer? Answer ... no. If the above story is not enough to convince those that think baiting is OK, Iowa law specifically prohibits baiting. Yes some state allow it. Iowa does not. And the future for legal baiting in other states is being reviewed to perhaps make it illegal. One reason for no baiting is to prevent disease transfer opportunities. The others are to maintain fair chase hunting scenarios where deer are not being drawn into a specific area because of food, salt or other attractants.
Here is what Iowa law states: "Prohibited Activities (see page 23 and 24 of the hunting regulations booklet) ... You may not use dogs, domestic animals, bait, radios, handguns, rifles and crossbows (except as described), automobiles, aircraft, electronic calls or any mechanical conveyance or device to hunt deer. "Bait" means grain, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay, salt, mineral blocks, or other natural food materials, commercial products containing natural food materials, or by-products of such materials transported to or placed in an area for the purpose of attracting wildlife. Bait does not include food placed during normal agricultural activities."
Call John Steinbach, DNR Conservation Officer at 641-751-5246, if you have any fish or game law enforcement related questions. You can read the regulations as quoted above. He will tell you the same thing. If you want to obey Iowa conservation laws, you have nothing to fear from John.
Hunting ethics demands that all participants in the outdoor sports do the right thing, even if the wrong thing might be technically legal.
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.