Iowa deer population: a topic that stirs hunters, farmers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa deer population: a topic that stirs hunters, farmers

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

It's a question that has deer hunters and farmers at odds: What is the ideal deer population for the state of Iowa?

Rep. Pat Murphy has heard opinions on one particular side from his constituents.

"It was initially a constituent that contacted me, talking about his concern as an outdoorsman and a hunter and was a deer hunter and talked about how difficult it was to find deer, so the decision I made was to research it a little bit more," Murphy said.

Deer numbers, he said, are down in several Iowa counties.

"I'm introducing a bill, probably, hopefully it will be down within the next couple weeks, that will start addressing some of the issues dealing with the deer population, to build it up," Murphy said. "We're not going to affect the regions of the state where there's a glut of population, if you go up north to Clayton and Allamakee."

His goal with the legislation is to raise the deer population only in counties where numbers are down, "to maybe let that area repopulate for a few years," he said.

The Iowa Farm Bureau, however, has a different take than hunters do on the deer population.

Guy Petersen is a farmer in Jones County and voting delegate for the Farm Bureau.

"It's what they eat, which is our crops," he said of the deer. "We have policy saying, we'd like to see deer numbers reduced in the state of Iowa, and I know that the DNR has been working on that."

In the early 2000s, Iowa legislators told the state's Department of Natural Resources to control the then-overpopulation of deer.

Since then, numbers have dropped in areas, but DNR spokesperson Joe Wilkinson has said striking a balance between all the interested parties is a difficult task.

"A deer hunter would like to see more deer. Someone who's losing a lot of their gardening would like to see fewer deer. Someone who has had a couple accidents and hit a deer is going to want to see fewer deer," Wilkinson said. "There is that push and shove all the time. We're never going to hit what is considered an ideal deer number for everyone."

"Nobody is advocating that we, you know, diminish the deer herd where they're practically extinct," Petersen said. "It's a matter of trying to find a balance."

Petersen said opinions differ even among farmers. If one farmer's land borders a wooded area and sees a lot of crop damage due to deer, that farmer would likely want to see a continued decrease in the deer population. Another farmer whose land is nowhere near where deer typically roam might not feel as strongly about the issue.

Wilkinson said, as of Sunday afternoon, nearly 118,000 deer have been harvested in the 2011-2012 hunting season.

He said the Iowa DNR uses science-based methods to set the number of deer tags sold in each county. The DNR takes into account the number of deer harvested that year, as well as those involved in vehicular accidents, when setting the number of tags for the following hunting season.

The DNR said in a media release this month, "reductions in the harvest were proposed in 2011 but not adopted."

Deer population isn't the only current controversy surrounding the animal.

As an effort to promote Iowa as a hunting destination, in 1998, the state started offering celebrities easy access to special out-of-state deer hunting permits, which the average non-Iowa-resident might have to wait years to buy.

Some are now saying, the white glove treatment for celebrities is unfair, and they want to change that.

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