A program designed to attract hunters to Iowa through celebrity endorsements from stars such as Toby Keith, Aaron Tippin and Miranda Lambert has come under fire by critics who feel the program is unfair and no longer needed. Starting in 1998, the celebrity program provides special out-of-state deer permits to 75 media stars each year with the hopes that they will be seen, filmed, or talk about hunting in Iowa.

Celebrities still pay the $551 fee that other nonresidents pay but do not have to wait years to get one of only 6,000 tags as do many nonresidents.

Some, such as Iowa Bowhunters Association President Randy Taylor feel the program is no longer needed. Taylor told the Des Moines Register, “There is no deer hunter nationwide who doesn’t consider Iowa one of the trophy hot spots in the nation.”

Steve Dermand, who helps oversee the program for Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources, agrees that Iowa is now viewed as one of the premier deer hunting states, but doesn’t feel the program should be terminated. Dermand said, “When this started, Iowa was just becoming recognized as having a good deer resource. This came along during that growth time. Now, Iowa is high-enough profile, the state is in all the hunting magazines and where to go for whitetail.”

The special celebrity tags are issued on a point system to those a state committee feels will best represent the state and attract the most exposure to the sport. Each year a few of the celebrity tags are given to nonprofit conservation groups that often auction them off to nonresidents for upwards of $10,000. Proceeds are split between the state and the conservation group.

What do you think Outdoor Life readers? Is this program still necessary? Is it unfair to non-celebrities? Comment below!