I have grown up hunting all of my life, in fact some of the greatest memories I have are hunting stories that I can share with my friends and family. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the glory days of deer hunting. The fact that I could go out and see deer every time I went in the woods was what fueled my passion for bow hunting and shotgun hunting whitetail deer. Several years ago the Iowa DNR started selling bonus doe tags in order to try to reduce the deer population. I agreed that in certain areas the deer population was beginning to be a problem.
Many of my fellow hunters and I took full advantage of these tags and began shooting an extra doe, or two every year. As several years passed I began to realize that maybe we should slow down a bit and not shoot so many deer. It was too late, many of Iowa's hunters had become mindless killing machines that no longer cared for the sport of hunting, but only cared about seeing 20 to 30 deer hanging in their shed. People that had never deer hunted in their lives decided to pick up a shotgun and shoot a couple does, because it was easy. After all, why not when you can just drop it off at the locker and let HUSH take it. I was raised to be a hunter not a killer, so this style of shooting them and forgetting about them made me sick. Something needed to be done, there were far too many extra doe tags being offered.
This year the DNR decided that they agreed and were set to reduce the doe tags in many counties. This was a sigh of relief, the DNR knows what they're doing. They have respected biologists hired to determine what's best for wildlife and keeping it in check. That's what these doe tags were all about, keeping the deer herd at a healthy level. When their recommendations for a reduction in doe tags hit Governor Branstad's desk he decided that the doe tags should remain at the same level as last year. Apparently the governor and his special interest groups know more about deer numbers than biologists who spend the majority of their time obsessing about it. IT'S THEIR JOB, LET THEM DO IT. This year Davis County had 3600 doe tags available, 4000 in Madison County and 5800 in Clayton County, five thousand eight hundred doe tags available for one county! This isn't counting land owner tags, depredation tags and regular any sex tags. It's outrageous and it has to stop. You hear people talk about how great deer hunting is in Iowa, well look out because those days will only be a memory if we keep this up.
Hunting shows portray Iowa as a deer hunter's heaven. What they don't tell you is that the famous people on those hunting shows are hunting huge chunks of land that are specifically managed for deer hunting. Of course they see a lot of deer. The rest of us live in the real world, where we go to hunt our best spot only to find that there are no deer left to hunt. We have no one to blame but ourselves. Ultimately it's our decision to buy the tag and our decision to shoot them. Every single hunter I've talked to this year has been disappointed with the low deer numbers and I've responded to each one saying "stop buying doe tags if you want it to change."
There were 4% less deer harvested this year than last year and 21% less than in 2006. The DNR has publicly stated that lower deer numbers are to blame for this decline in harvest. These numbers are only going to keep going down if we don't do something. If you want something to change, sitting back and complaining will do nothing. It's in our hands. They can offer 50,000 doe tags per county but that doesn't mean we have to buy them. I want the same opportunities for my kids that I had. I want them to be so excited to go out in the woods that they can't sleep at night knowing they'll see deer the next day. Heck, I want that feeling back. Hunters, take this matter into your own hands. No one can fix it but us.