Deer Study Advisory Committee Update Posted 12/1/08
The Deer Study Advisory Committee (DSAC) has met three times since our initial meeting on September 16 & 17, 2008. Each meeting has been dedicated to answering questions generated from members of our committee (17 gubernatorial appointees).  I have gained extensive knowledge re Iowa’s deer population and deer-related issues.
The Iowa DNR Wildlife Bureau has vast stockpiles of statistical data relating to Iowa deer populations and even more management information and issues from other midwestern states.  The DSAC will make its decisions based upon information and data from various stakeholders. I believe we will reach consensus based on data, rather than personal biases.
When Rich Leopold spoke to the DSAC on October 14, he said that during his time in office, the number of complaints about deer issues ranked second to the number of complaints re hog lots.  The DNR has been working toward a goal of 180,000 deer (after harvest) on a statewide population level.  In the early 1990’s, the hunters and producers of agricultural crops agreed that 180,000 was an acceptable goal, based on survey findings indicating the majority of both groups found that  number to be “about right”.  With that number in mind, we are in the process of reaching consensus among the stakeholders represented on the DSAC so that we can advise the legislature as to how to produce a sustainable deer herd that would benefit all of Iowa’s citizens. 

With the figure of 180,000 deer (after harvest) being the goal statewide, reports show that much of the state is at goal or trending toward goal levels.  There are areas of central and west central Iowa that will need additional tags and pressure on the doe population to reach acceptable levels in the next two or three years.

Hot spots do exist within areas that are otherwise acceptable.   The depredation program has been temporarily expanded to increase harvest of does to ease the damage costs of deer in these hot spots.   When I started my representation of IWOA members (and ALL tree-related groups), the depredation program was being directed toward high value crops (corn & bean producers, vineyards, Christmas trees, etc).  Existing forestlands now have a depredation program assigned through district foresters to depredation biologists and a program for CRP and tree plantings is being developed.  I feel good about the opportunity for woodland owners and tree growers to be able to put additional pressure on deer populations in their immediate area to help produce the vegetative effect they are seeking.  The goal is not to get rid of all the deer but perhaps the lowered damage levels will be tolerable.    

The most recent meeting (November 17) addressed a hot topic (non-resident tags) that seems to separate people into different areas of support.  Currently there are just over 15,500 non-resident tags (6,000 any-sex, 9,500 antlerless) issued each year to about 9,500 hunters.  Those non-resident tags account for less than  4% of the licenses sold in Iowa and just over 5% of the hunters in the deer woods.  However, in dollars generated, those licenses account for over 23% of the income the DNR receives from all of the deer tags sold in Iowa. 

Other issues that may be included in the recommendations are the HUSH program and how to fund it better as well as the November anterless only season.  November 17 reports from the Iowa Insurance Institute on deer crash costs and the Iowa DOT on trends in car/animal crashes in six highway districts have added to our pool of research data.

We will be meeting December 9 to attempt to finalize a list of recommendations from our working list generated earlier.  We have all listened respectfully to the statements of all stakeholders and have learned a great deal about Iowa deer issues.  I am optimistic that the DSAC will provide a good list of recommendations for the General Assembly to consider in January, 2009.

Ace Hendricks, IWOA Representative