Iowa Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

The biggest deer news for Iowa was not good news. A single deer in a game preserve in Davis County was found infected with Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD. On the upside, no wild deer have been found with CWD in Iowa, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has tested more than 42,000 wild deer for the fatal neurological disease in the last decade.

This fall, the DNR will ask hunters and landowners to test even more deer than they have in the past.

Otherwise, Iowa's deer are healthy. But there are fewer of them, as the herd's been in decline since 2006. The current estimate of 291,000 deer is a full 100,000 fewer deer than were roaming the Buckeye State in 2008.

"This is a planned reduction effort initiated in 2003 with the goal of returning Iowa's deer herd to levels that existed in the mid-to-late 1990s," says Tom Litchfield, DNR deer biologist. "This goal is very close to being achieved with approximately two-thirds of Iowa's counties being at goal or very close to goal. In the northwest and north-central portions of the state there are several counties that are below goal. High grain prices are causing the loss of some deer habitat as additional acres are being put into row crop production.

That drop in deer numbers also explains why, for this fall, eastern Iowa hunting units had their antlerless quotas revised--to the tune of 13,000 fewer antlerless tags.

Like its neighbors, Iowa's seen much less precipitation than normal this year.

"On a statewide basis, we are down on our winter, spring, and early summer precipitation," Litchfield notes. "Localized storms have some parts of the state faring better. Currently, hard and soft mast crops are likely being compromised and clover and row crop production is threatened by the current dry conditions."
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The Midwestern Regional Report**
Winter in the Midwest was mild to nonexistent, and deer herds came into spring in very good shape. However, drought could be an issue in some states. "Hard and soft mast crops will likely be compromised, and clover and row crop production is threatened by dry conditions," says Iowa deer biologist Tom Litchfield. In parts of Indiana and Illinois, some farmers were forced to plow under failing corn or chop it up for cattle feed in midsummer. Deer numbers are stable to growing in most locales, though disease is taking a toll in several states. North Dakota is still reeling from last year's EHD outbreak, CWD is spreading within Illinois and Wisconsin, bovine tuberculosis is still a concern in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and Nebraska and Missouri experienced EHD outbreaks this summer.

Top Trophy Zones
IL: Pike, Adams, Brown, and Fulton counties.
KS: Units 11, 12, and 16.
KY: Christian, Grayson, Hardin, Hart, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties.
MI: Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties.
MN: Zone 3. This fall will be the third year of antler-point restrictions here.
MO: Saline, Putnam, Calloway, Chariton, and Cooper counties.
NE: Since 2005, hunters have taken 44 record-book mule deer bucks in Cherry County, including a 171 2⁄8 typical in 2010 and a 210 4⁄8 non-typical in 2005.
OH: Muskingum County.
WI: Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Waupaca counties. Between 2005 and 2010, the Dairy State led all other states with 383 Boone and Crockett entries.