First gun deer season opens Saturday

DES MOINES — The first firearm deer season begins tomorrow.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources state deer biologist Jace Elliot says the numbers from the early hunts show that the first firearm season should be comparable to previous years. “This year we’re tracking along pretty closely with last year’s harvest to date,” he says.

Nearly 30,000 deer have been taken in the early seasons that include archery and youth hunts. The gun season has expanded from the original shotgun-only, to now include muzzleloaders, handguns and, most recently, rifles. The gun seasons are always the most popular, with some 100,000 hunters expected to take part. “These two seasons end up taking about 50 percent of our deer harvest throughout all of our seasons, just in these two firearm seasons,” Elliott says. “So we definitely expect as long as the weather cooperates to have a very successful season.”

He says hunters shouldn’t have trouble finding deer in most of the state. “Statewide, we’re at a stable to slightly increasing level and have been for the past several years. There’s of course areas in the state that we’re actively trying to recover populations, particularly far western, and northwestern Iowa,” Elliott says. “And then of course, there’s also areas where we’re working on reducing deer numbers to some degree, but for the most part, we’re very happy with population levels in Iowa.”

Elliott says there has been some concern about the E-H-D outbreak and the impact on the deer population in Iowa. He says there was a severe E-H-D outbreak, statewide this year, and particularly in the southeast region. “The message to hunters is that this disease can have severe local impacts, we’re talking about the property scale or the section scale,” he says, “but at a county level even though this was one of our more severe outbreaks, it does not seem that any particular county has been affected to the level that would require management intervention.”

Elliott says the counties that are hit hard with E-H-D but have ample deer populations to start with, tend to recover in just a matter of a few years. The first deer gun season starts Saturday and runs through Wednesday December 6th. The second deer gun season is December 9th through the 17th.