Many deer passed underneath my stand in October and November. Aside a slow rut, due to warm weather, deer numbers seemed strong. Despite my observations, there were no doe tags available in my county. I wanted to find out why there had been a reduction in the quota and what to expect from this year. I spoke with several DNR officers and researched the 2015 logbook. This is what I learned.
The total number of deer harvested in 2015/16 season (105,401) was 4% higher than 2014. The increase is likely due to greater deer populations as the number of hunters and licenses was virtually the same as the year before.
Deer numbers peaked in the early 2000s with the highest ever harvest occurring in 2005. However, the estimate system was then adjusted and is no longer directly comparable to those figures. The DNR’s goal is a stable population at a level similar to the mid-to-late 1990s, with an annual harvest of between 100,000 and 120,000 deer.
The primary form of population control is through regulation of doe tags. In 2014 and 2015 doe tags were reduced in many counties in order to stabilize the population. It looks unlikely that the number of doe tags will increase significantly in 2017. In southwest Iowa alone there are proposals for quota reductions in 6 counties: Woodbury, Crawford, Shelby, Fremont, Taylor, and Ringgold.
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is caused by a midge and the symptoms include to high fever and internal bleeding of the heart, lungs and diaphragm. Droughts lead to greater concentrations of deer around water in which the midge lives. My first knowledge of disease in deer came in the summer of 2012, when drought conditions led to excellent bow fishing but also widespread EHD. The disease was also prevalent in 2013 and to a much lesser extent 2014 and 2015. With the exception of Monona (32) and Boone (64) counties there were very few reported cases of EHD in 2016. To find out more about EHD click here.
Chronic waste disease (CWD) is a neurological disease that affects both elk and deer. The disease is caused by an abnormal protein and signs include excessive salivation, thirst and urination, weight loss and listlessness. The DNR has tested for CWD since 2002, but the first confirmed case was in 2013. Several more cases have been found since then, all in Allamakee County. In 2016, 12 of 4,879 tissue samples taken from wild deer tested positive for CWD. Click here to find out what you can do to prevent the spread of CWD. For the full 2016 report click here.
A mild winter and low stress levels combined with a low level of disease should lead to a solid deer herd in the state. Special thanks to Tyler Harms and the Iowa DNR in their help with this article. Thank you for reading and good luck. Stu