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Should Iowa change its deer hunting quotas?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | JUNE 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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YES

The current method of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources placing a statewide quota on antlerless deer harvesting is inefficient and provides little local flexibility.

As a lifelong hunter and Iowan, I understand there are numerous perspectives for controlling the population of whitetail deer. After all, an overabundance of deer can create costly damage to municipalities and farmers while also increasing the risk of dangerous auto accidents. But just the same, I see the need to maintain our great state’s natural resources and allow future generations the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

Recently, farming and agricultural interests — citing ongoing crop damage and dangerous rural driving conditions — persuaded Gov. Terry Branstad that current quotas for the number of deer-hunting licenses approved statewide should not be reduced.

The decision to maintain a high-level quota is inexcusable. While it’s generally believed increased state quotas in previous seasons have successfully diminished Iowa’s general deer population, this “thinning out” has not been equitably distributed. And in some areas, such as here in eastern Iowa, populations have fallen substantially. In essence, what seems to have worked previously for controlling whitetail populations now works to the detriment of future hunters.

I’m not strictly calling for harvesting quotas to be tossed out. Rather, I think the process should be handed over to Iowa’s individual counties. This would bring a local element to population control and allow for greater flexibility.

For example, if counties were able to set their own quotas independently of the state, there would be a more calculated response to deer herds. This method would provide area counties such as Iowa, Johnson, and Linn with the valuable opportunity to allow populations to stabilize. And more importantly, it would allow populations to rebuild in some areas, while being curtailed in others.

While many would argue that the current system provides the opportunity for hunters to forgo the purchase of excess tags, that it’s still offered is discouraging. Believe me when I say I’ll be less enthusiastic in all future calls for hunters to help the state fulfill high quotas.

—Matt Heinze

NO

When it comes to whitetail stags and does, Iowa is nationally renowned for the outstanding selection it provides for in- and out-of-state hunters every fall. But during the remaining seasons of the year, only Iowans have the rare pleasure of also living with the supposedly “outstanding” quantity of deer.

And while deer aren’t an uncommon sight, there are simply not enough to warrant hunting with reckless abandon. These animals play an integral role in the local food chain, are staples of regional wildlife, and are sentient beings that do not deserve to be shot en masse for the sake of “sport.”

Ensuring deer and humans continue to coexist (in safe and reasonable numbers) is of utmost importance.

The presence of quotas at all may anger happy-go-lucky hunters, reduced or not, but they are entirely necessary for maintaining a livable deer-to-human ratio in the state — and because deer aren’t known for their respect of county lines, a statewide quota is the way to go. Since 2006, Iowa’s deer population has been slowly declining from a then-high of 150,552 to just 127,094 in 2011(just over half of which are females); while this may give the impression of overabundance, numbers from Johnson County alone paint a different picture.

Our county is currently home to approximately 2,320 male and female deer, yet 1,300 hunting licenses will be approved later this year. That essentially halves the deer population in our own backyard on an annual basis (more so if you account for the hunters who pay extra to shoot additional does).

Not to mention, the existence of hunting quotas is agreeable to hunters and non-hunters alike.
For our state to continue to provide such a lucrative hunting ground and successful industry, deer quotas are indeed necessary — whether we wish to continue cultivating the finest five-point bucks in the nation or just to maintain a reasonable population of native animals. Let’s not let our whitetail go the way of the pheasant.

If you’re still bored, go shoot mourning doves. I hear they’re threatening our crops and roadways as well.

—Kirsten Jacobsen


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