State recreation area in Dubuque Co. may drop shotgun hunting - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

State recreation area in Dubuque Co. may drop shotgun hunting

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

Shotgun deer and turkey hunters in eastern Iowa may soon lose a public hunting space.

The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area, just outside of Dubuque, is considering a proposal to ban all shotgun hunting in the park.

The Iowa DNR is proposing to eliminate the two shotgun deer seasons in December, in addition to the only other time the park allows shotgun hunting: the first regular season of the spring turkey hunting.

Currently, shotguns are the only firearm allowed anywhere in the Mines of Spain, and they're only tolerated for hunting during the seasons listed above.

The Mines of Spain has allowed shotgun deer hunting since 1991. It was an effort to help control the high deer population at the time.

These days, park ranger Wayne Buchholtz said, there are more tourists and fewer deer than there were 20 years ago.

"We've been getting in some e-mails from both sides," Buchholtz said Monday at the park's E. B. Lyons Interpretive Center.

On one hand, he said, he has support from people who, like him, see the proposal as a safety measure.

"There's 22 miles of trails out here, and six of those miles are cross country skiing, so we have hikers, skiers, snowshoers and shotgun hunters all using the exact same area, so the main reason is for safety," Buchholtz said.

Shotgun hunting, when in season and allowed, is limited to about half of the park. The Mines of Spain Website details the hunting boundaries.

On the other side of the discussion, local shotgun hunters are wondering where they can hunt if the DNR bans shotguns from the park.

"There's White Pine Hollow, which is over by Luxemburg, there's Green Island, down by Bellevue," Buchholtz listed. "There's White Water Canyon by Cascade that's now a public hunting area, so there are areas around."

Hunters and tourists alike, though, haven't been seeing many deer in the past few years in the Mines of Spain.

"To see deer in the park is very rare. I can go months without seeing a deer, and I work here," Buchholtz said, adding the park has not conducted an official count in more than five years.

Monday evening, at 6:30, the Iowa DNR held a public meeting at the E. B. Lyons Interpretive Center in the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area, where they listened to public comments, answered any questions and explained the proposal.

Buchholtz said the next steps are to consider all the public input and give his recommendation to the Iowa DNR's Natural Resources Commission.

The proposal only includes banning shotgun hunting. Buchholtz said the park plans on keeping archery and bow hunting for deer and turkey seasons.

The Mines of Spain sees more than 250,000 visitors annually.

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