Iowa’s deer take exceeds 103,000

DEER hunting seasons are still in effect for late muzzle loader and the soon to start late antlerless deer season between Jan. 11-20 in select southern and western Iowa counties. To date, more than 103,000 deer have been reported to the DNR via telephone or computer reporting options. It will not be long before all seasons will end and the DNR wildlife biologists will then begin additional surveys to help compute trend lines for the decreases in statewide deer numbers. Aerial surveys are contemplated in January 2013 over specified survey routes. With the probability of good snow cover on the land, counting deer from fixed wing aircraft or helicopters will be much easier.

Counting deer in Emily Hunt’s case last December was a much more specific task. She and her boyfriend and his family group knew where to have Emily stand so that she would see deer coming past her location during a deer drive from the party. Prior to the actual hunt, she had completed the required hunter safety course and practiced on the range with the 20 gauge shotgun she would be using. She knew what she had to do. All the talk and theory from before the hunt would now come down to reality, a real deer within range. The excitement of the hunt was coming to fruition when she put the shotgun to her shoulder and made it count. A few tears of joy and excitement soon found Emily at the receiving end of handshakes and hugs from the entire hunting party. And Emily assisted a few days later with processing the deer meat for safe keeping in the freezer. Deer burgers, steaks and roasts from her deer will be very much appreciated this winter at future family gatherings. They will be eating Emily’s deer.

As of this edition of OUTDOORS TODAY, Iowa deer take has proven again that those areas with the greatest mix of forest habitats and ag lands are the top producers of deer. The top five counties in terms of number of deer killed by all hunters is as follows: Clayton County with nearly 4,500; Allamakee is just short of 3,500; Warren County is in third place with a tad over 2,600 followed by Jackson County at 2,585. Fifth place is Winneshiek County at 2,269. If one compares the low five counties for deer taken, its low numbers reflect habitat dominated by intense agricultural land use. The five low count counties at this time are Grundy at 140, Calhoun with 141, Ida and Osceola at 155 each and lastly Pocahontas at 151. Obviously there is no average that applies to all counties because Iowa’s landscape is so diverse. What is known is this – Iowa’s deer herd is coming down, as proven by the trend lines from survey data over the past decade. Holding deer numbers steady is the next task for biologists, hunters and landowners working together.

A third positive test has confirmed CWD in a deer from the captive herd in Davis County. The deer was taken on Dec. 15 inside the fenced area of the game farm called Pine Ridge Hunting Preserve. Due to the previous two CWD confirmations from this facility, the DNR and the Department of Agriculture completed a depopulation agreement. To date, 195 deer and nine elk have been killed at this site. The reason for this action is simple: Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal for those animals infected. Not all of the above 195 may have had the disease, but the odds of them getting CWD will be very high. Risking these animals spreading the malady to wild free ranging deer must be prevented if at all possible. To check this aspect of investigation, over 300 wild deer taken within a five mile radius of the known CWD site will be lab tested for this disease. Davis County is in southern Iowa where the late antlerless season runs through Jan. 20.

Here are some highlights from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation report. It proves how important wildlife is and the big picture for Americans who cherish the great outdoors. More than 90 million U.S. residents 16 years old or older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011. That is a number up 3 percent from five years earlier. Wildlife recreationists spent $144.7 billion in 2011 on their activities, which equates to an amount equal to one percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Of that 144.7 billion, $49.5 billion was trip related, $70.4 billion was spent on equipment, and $24.8 billion was expended on other items including licenses, land leasing or access fees. The number of sportspersons rose from 33.9 million in 2006 to 37.4 million in 2011. The data show that 33.1 million people fished, 13.7 million hunted, and 71.8 million participated in at least on type of wildlife watching activity. A further breakdown of the statistics indicates that of the 13.7 million hunters, 11.6 million hunted big game, 4.5 million small game, 2.6 million hunted migratory birds and 2.2 million other animals. For the 33.1 million anglers, 27.5 fished fresh water and 8.9 million salt water. Seventy three percent of all anglers were male, 27 percent female. For hunters, 89 percent were male and 11 percent female.

Watching wildlife is big business just in this aspect alone. 71.8 million U.S. residents observed, fed birds, and/or photographed birds and other wildlife in 2011. Just around the homes where people live, 68.6 million folks observed wildlife and 22.5 million people took trips of at least one mile or more from home to watch wild critters. Where opportunities warranted, 13.7 million people enjoyed watching large land mammals such as bear, deer, wild sheep, elk and bison. Four million watched marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. Fish watching can account for 6.4 million people, and at least 10.1 million enjoyed watching other wildlife such as butterflies.

To obtain the data I related above, the USFWS used information from the U.S. Census Bureau by randomly selecting over 48,600 households across the country. Special telephone and in person surveys or interviews were used to gather the data. For this scribe, who was not one of the 48,600 interviewed, it is an impressive overview of how all U.S. citizens interact, use and manage the wildlife resources of America. I’m proud to be a participant in the outdoor sports. I’m proud to be one who willingly pays into the system through my memberships in various conservation organizations. And I’m proud to support the Iowa DNR via my hunting and fishing license purchases each year. As a resolution for 2013, consider your increased support for wildlife through some form of participation and financial support. I thank you in advance.

Iowa DNR licenses have several new options for 2013 and beyond. As of Jan. 1, 243 people took advantage of the new Outdoor Combo License. In this case, the resident hunting, fishing and wildlife habitat fee is all wrapped up into one purchase for $47, saving $4 over the comparable cost of each as a separate purchase. Fishermen and ladies, 111 of you, purchased a three year license for $53 versus $57 separately. Eighty five anglers purchased the Bonus Line License which allows residents or nonresidents to fish with three lines (6 hooks) instead of the normal two lines (four hooks). Sixty people took advantage of the Hunter’s Special, a three year hunting license with included habitat fee for a total of $86 versus the separate costs of $96.

The new license offerings were developed based on license buyer surveys to help the DNR fill customer needs. The basic hunting license fees have not changed since 2002. Fishing license fees have not changed since 2003. Vendor fees for those that sell licenses have increased and they passed those charges on to all of us since 2010 to support the second generation electronic licensing system. People that hold a 2012 license know it is valid through January 10th, 2013.

PHOTO CONTEST entries are due Fe.1 at the Marshall County Conservation Board for the 2012 contest. Enter your favorite images of people, wildlife, plants, or parks. Contest guideline rules of the contest are available at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm during regular business hours weekdays. An entry fee of $3 per photos is charged. Funds are used to offset the cost of a chili supper to be held Feb.6 at which time the winners in each category will be announced. This always a fun time and a great way to see how other folks look at nature in Marshall County through their camera lens. Call 752-5490 for details or check out the MCCB web site

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”- John Ruskin

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.