Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources say heading into Iowa’s busiest outdoor “opening day,” shotgun deer season hunters should expect to see fewer deer. While that downturn is by design, the DNR says hunters should still fill plenty of tags, during the December 1st-through the 5th first shotgun season, or the December 8th-through 16th, second season. Tom Litchfield, DNR deer research biologist, says “Deer numbers are projected to be down at least ten percent from last year.” Litchfield says they “Have been working to decrease deer numbers since 2003. On a statewide basis, the herd is very close to objective, which would be the levels seen in the mid to late 1990s.”
With a relatively short season (five or nine days), shotgun hunters often must adapt to the weather. Looking ahead to the next week, seasonal temperatures and a continued brown—not white—landscape lie ahead for hunters holding about 172,000 paid first season, paid second season and landowner tags. One strategy that remains constant is hunting with the wind. Deer rely primarily on their noses, to warn of danger. Hunters should keep that in mind, especially as they set up drives.
Somewhat of a ‘wild card’ this fall and winter in conducting the deer harvest, according to officials, will be the impact of Epizootic Hemorrhaging Disease (EHD) across much of the state. Nearly 3,000 reports of suspected EHD have been received; with concentrations in central and southwest counties and several more western counties through the Loess Hills. In all, 63 counties have at least one suspected case. The hot weather, insect-carried disease has essentially run its course for this year; with heavy frost killing off the midge, which spreads it.
Still, hunters may find more dead deer, as they fan out across the landscape. With the emphasis on downsizing the herd, Litchfield sees about 60 of Iowa’s 99 counties ‘at objective.’ Another 20 should reach it after this season. The remainder likely would fall into place after 2013-14. He is concerned, however, that the EHD outbreak could change that dynamic—lowering hunter harvest and post-season counts—for some counties.