Iowa hunters put their tags on about 144,500 deer last fall, continuing a downward harvest trend in recent years. The deer population has been declining since 2006, with biologists working to return the population back to levels that existed in the mid-to-late 1990s. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates there are about 425,000 deer in the state this year. But another mild winter allowed deer to move around more, making it more difficult for researchers to conduct aerial surveys over areas where whitetails traditionally yard up.
“The deer populations in Northwestern and North-Central Iowa have been relatively stable in recent years, but these regions lack cover and overall deer densities are lower,” explained DNR deer project biologist Tom Litchfield. “For the remainder of the state, deer populations have been declining in recent years and most counties have reached population goals. Populations are strongest in northeastern Iowa, southern Iowa, and portions of western Iowa.”
Last year, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) caused reductions in deer numbers in localized areas in the central, southern, and western portions of the state. Litchfield believes that the impact of deer losses may be felt more by hunters this fall. There have been some reports of EHD again in 2013, but officials don’t believe the disease will kill deer to the level that it did in 2012.
If you’re looking for public land to deer hunt this fall, you might want to stay out of the Hawkeye State. Only 1.5 percent of Iowa’s land is open to public hunting, making it hard for those looking for a do-it-yourself hunting adventure. If you’re bound and determined to find a good buck on public land, focus your efforts in northeastern, southern, and western counties.