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Has iowa got BETTER or WORSE in last 10 years?

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
I’ve heard “80’s & 90’s were best before deer were the craze”. “Early 2000’s had the monsters” & some claim we are living in the best times.
I don’t know & I see a few sides here …. Negatives of now:
-Some more populated areas have more guys out for high Scoring bucks & shooting the best 3-4 year olds.
-more plots with blinds on them making success go up.
-more weapons: straight wall, rifle junk, etc.
-on & off & back on for late shed buck season (this is gonna hurt the state in future years- no doubt).
-higher land prices & division/splitting of land because of cost.
-popularity of city hunting & public both been hyped hard for years & absolutely gotten more difficult.

POSITIVE:
-less gun hunting with drives where deer pushed and anything with rack gets lead flung at it while running.
-less trespassing…. I personally would attribute >50% of the reduction to trail cameras alone. A tiny bit less poaching for same reason.
-more folks passing good genetic 3-4 year olds and shooting old bullies regardless of score.
-more food plots & better deer health.
-more habitat work & some catch up in crp acres.
-still huge public areas with giant Tracts that are hard to access. Same with private.
-due to NR tag restrictions- wide spread outfitting has not been able to gain ground. That alone would cripple the state if that ever changed.!!!!!


I don’t know. I hear stories of “the good old days” but that’s human nature. Always Debby downers “the best is in the past” - but is that reality or no? Are we in the “good old days now”? For sure is still great. Clearly #1 is keeping it great & holding the line. When was iowa “at its best” overall & on average???
 
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Handcannon

Well-Known Member
No debby downer here but...In my area, deer numbers are pathetic. During the early 2000s I had about 6 bucks on camera every year that were 150" +. The last 10 years, 1 or 2 that might be 140"+. The last 3 years, I had pics of the same 5 deer in a 2 mile radius & only 2 had antlers. Of the 2, one was a spike & the other might make 120". I didn't even go out last year. Landowner said he saw 1 antlered deer all last year. EHD & everyone cutting down every tree in sight has not helped the situation.

We might see a doe & fawn on evening drives...if we're lucky. Turkeys outnumber deer now, and that isn't saying much.
 

78mac78

PMA Member
I would say worse in my particular area. The age structure and density has dropped substantially. Late 90s early 2000s was much better.
 

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
No debby downer here but...In my area, deer numbers are pathetic. During the early 2000s I had about 6 bucks on camera every year that were 150" +. The last 10 years, 1 or 2 that might be 140"+. The last 3 years, I had pics of the same 5 deer in a 2 mile radius & only 2 had antlers. Of the 2, one was a spike & the other might make 120". I didn't even go out last year. Landowner said he saw 1 antlered deer all last year. EHD & everyone cutting down every tree in sight has not helped the situation.

We might see a doe & fawn on evening drives...if we're lucky. Turkeys outnumber deer now, and that isn't saying much.
Stating a reality sure isn’t being Debby downer!! So didn’t mean it that way.
So- beyond habitat reduction- what else has happened? That’s a crazy change in a short amount of time!!!! Concerning. Wondering what your thoughts are?

I’ll give you all some EXAMPLES of where I hear stories like above…. Say around areas like all along I-80…. Iowa city, newton, Altoona or up a bit…. Marshalltown, Ames, etc…. Places I’m referring to have smaller amounts of woods. Easy to kill them or drive them out & shoot. Even a little bump in hunters …. There’s not enough timber. Guys go crazy shooting too many does & then more competition for bucks…. Population & buck potential is so delicate & gets hurt. I do hear about those areas & examples like that often. Spose it’s better than N iowa where there’s almost no deer to begin with ;).
 

Rous14

Well-Known Member
Been of the opinion for 10 years now (ever since major EHD outbreak) that in vast majority of Midwest that too many does are being killed. I’ve emailed dnr, I’ve emailed back n forth with some of the bigger names in the industry etc… but the next time you read an article or hear a “celebrity” on tv saying to stop shooting does or to grow the heard will be the first. Deer density is way down in much of the Midwest and therefore, imo, the hunting is worse.
 

78mac78

PMA Member
Sure that is definitely a part of it. I would argue that timber hasn’t changed as much as perhaps the amount of parcels in my area along 80. I would even say the number of parcels might help this area somewhat as it curbs drives. The amount of gun pressure or truck pressure has compounded the issues stated above where the age structure can’t seem catch back up. Since the .450 era the amount of deer and number of guys going on drive has increased in our area. Great from hunter number standpoint. Culturally in this part of the world there is a huge push everything, chase everything, shoot everything and maybe pick up something If it is big mentality. Age structures have been shattered by this. In the past the effectiveness of weapons help curb this. With the ar platform and seeming limitless amount of ammo these groups have become quite effective at killing deer. Many continue to brag about how many they shot and left. DNR knows but with so few it is difficult to catch in the act. It is hard to say if I just feel this in my particular area or if it is like elsewhere too. Either way the age structure is not as positive as it once was and is having a much harder time catching back up. We’re we at peak age structure as a whole in the early 2000s when qdma was really taking off?
 

IowaBowHunter1983

Super Moderator
Staff member
I'm not sure if its better or worse at this point, but I feel like it's headed in the wrong direction. Regulations that have made Iowa great are constantly under attack. Land keeps getting chopped up. I see this on a daily basis and is going to be an erosion of deer quality in neighborhoods that it happens.
 

Handcannon

Well-Known Member
Stating a reality sure isn’t being Debby downer!! So didn’t mean it that way.
So- beyond habitat reduction- what else has happened? That’s a crazy change in a short amount of time!!!! Concerning. Wondering what your thoughts are?

I’ll give you all some EXAMPLES of where I hear stories like above…. Say around areas like all along I-80…. Iowa city, newton, Altoona or up a bit…. Marshalltown, Ames, etc…. Places I’m referring to have smaller amounts of woods. Easy to kill them or drive them out & shoot. Even a little bump in hunters …. There’s not enough timber. Guys go crazy shooting too many does & then more competition for bucks…. Population & buck potential is so delicate & gets hurt. I do hear about those areas & examples like that often. Spose it’s better than N iowa where there’s almost no deer to begin with ;).
In the early 2000s we were told to do our part by buying antlerless tags to help control the population. And the number of antlerless tags for some counties were far more than needed. My county had a ridiculous amount at the beginning and it took years for it to be retracted. We fell for it, $11 was a great price to fill a freezer. And in a very short time we realized what we had done and it's taking an eternity to recover.
 

JNRBRONC

Moderator
In the early 2000s we were told to do our part by buying antlerless tags to help control the population. And the number of antlerless tags for some counties were far more than needed. My county had a ridiculous amount at the beginning and it took years for it to be retracted. We fell for it, $11 was a great price to fill a freezer. And in a very short time we realized what we had done and it's taking an eternity to recover.
I'm guilty as charged, took way too many does when "they" said we needed to trim the herd. Then a wave or two of EHD came through and things haven't rebounded. Haven't shot a doe in many years now and really don't plan on ever going back to it. Lately I've been passing on bucks I would have gladly tagged 10 years ago, hoping it pays off down the road if they survive for the next year. So some of the "change" is me instead of the number or quality of deer. Still an occasional good one out there.
 

BDAHMS

Be here Now
I think like any section in history it can be area specific. Some areas may seem worse because many people are losing their permission farms and having less and less to hunt so their sample size is smaller. Others are in areas being ravaged by poor outfitting or other hunting practices parlayed with maybe an EHD hit or a deer drive massacre or doe killing seasoning (not saying deer drives are bad). And other areas are in their prime with high deer density but great genetics at the same time with well managed surrounding areas. I haven't lost any permission farms and I recently purchased my first farm, but I would say im seeing all the above for situations. Some down hill and some in their prime for quality and quantity.
 

Hardwood11

It is going to be a good fall!
It is still good in our area, but I have heard it was much better. In my opinion hunters are just better equipped and put in the time in this modern day... Add it EHD, and coyotes! We had 5 really nice bucks in our area and (2) were shot and one died of EHD. We did have one poached by the road as well.

Keep in mind seasons are longer with many more options.
 

Daver

PMA Member
Lots of angles here IMO and many, many variables. I totally agree with those that say this is area specific. I am fortunate to own ground in an area that has avoided much of the bad...some by design, some probably by sheer accident...but I will take it.

The key word, to me..."neighborhood". Some neighborhoods are now at, or very close, to the best they have even been. Others are way off from the "good ol' days"...with those golden days only being about 15'ish years ago now. I would argue that my farm is better now than 20 years ago...as I have done A LOT of work to trick it out and make it a place where deer can thrive all year long.

When I bought my place 20 years ago, there were some deer as it was in a "good area" and had a lot of timber/brush. But virtually no food outside of natural browse and acorns at times. Even so, through TSI, etc, I have greatly increased the browse AND added about 25 acres of year round, mostly, food that wasn't there before. Other neighbors have done similar things. There are A LOT more deer in our area than 20 years ago.

We still shoot does, and I think we need to maintain some level of doe harvest, but in other areas?? You bet, I wouldn't shoot many, if any. Again, area specific.
 

Rous14

Well-Known Member
The follow up question Skip is how does “better or worse” get measured scientifically and not anecdotally by each of us and our own tiny dot on the map.
For me, I want 1) as many deer as the habitat will sustain health wise and the byproduct of that 2) as many mature big bucks as possible.

Where I hunt both of those metrics are down significantly in the entire state compared to 2002-2012

On #1– I’m not in IA but am curious if the state has data by county of population trends over the last 20 years that someone might link?

On #2– I’ve often felt that we’re missing a huge part of the data set by not really having a good way of counting/tracking the number of B&C bucks taken by county or selected area from year to year and therefore it makes answering your question that much more difficult.
 

sep0667

Land of the Whitetail
The follow up question Skip is how does “better or worse” get measured scientifically and not anecdotally by each of us and our own tiny dot on the map.
For me, I want 1) as many deer as the habitat will sustain health wise and the byproduct of that 2) as many mature big bucks as possible.

Where I hunt both of those metrics are down significantly in the entire state compared to 2002-2012

On #1– I’m not in IA but am curious if the state has data by county of population trends over the last 20 years that someone might link?

On #2– I’ve often felt that we’re missing a huge part of the data set by not really having a good way of counting/tracking the number of B&C bucks taken by county or selected area from year to year and therefore it makes answering your question that much more difficult.

Its all on the DNR website. https://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/Hunting/trends/logbook_2020.pdf

You can also find individual county harvest. I really enjoy looking these over and use to chart some of it myself just for fun.
 

sep0667

Land of the Whitetail
You could go a lot of different directions with this. I'm sure there are more foodplots and people managing for deer and the herd now than ever before, that is good.

IMO the central and northern parts of the state have less habitat than 20 years ago, not that they had a lot, but many many brushy/treed draws, terraces, fence lines etc that use to have cover have largely been cleared. Recreational land prices are big now, 20 years ago was there such such thing as 'recreational parcels' in iowa or all these real estate companies marketing to it, I dont think so? 20 years ago was leasing hunting rights really a thing, i dont think so? Overall for hunting these things are probably not good, but if you own ground you could say it is as you now have another source of income or a greater net worth. The $$ to own and lease has pushed a lot of people I think to lose permission ground ( I have) and put more people on public ground. Public ground can be very hit and miss, I have had some places nearly to myself and other times there's 4-5 vehicles in the parking lot, or people out walking their dog, riding dirt bikes etc. Over the course of time alteast from what I read hunting in other countries like in Europe etc truly is for the wealthy. Look how much just deer hunting in Iowa has changed in 20 years in regards to access to private land, not only in value, but the permission and leasing. Imagine what it will be like in another 20 years.

IMO the regulations that have made Iowa well known are slipping. More weapons have been introduced (rifles, crossbows), and seasons now go later into the winter. We have CWD expanding in the state. EHD seems to be more common, or is atleast being more noticed in the last 10 years, i dont remember every hearing of or knowing what ehd was prior to maybe 2012/2013.

All this is very dependent on where you are in the state. Two different people could have two total different experiences, maybe even within the same county. Overall IMO things are going the wrong direction, largely due to the regulations changing and habitat loss.
 

Rous14

Well-Known Member
Its all on the DNR website. https://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/Hunting/trends/logbook_2020.pdf

You can also find individual county harvest. I really enjoy looking these over and use to chart some of it myself just for fun.
Lots there to digest but think I read that deer vehicle accidents were down around 20% in 2019 and down another 8% in 2020. Also seems to clearly state that deer populations are definitely lower today then 10-15 years ago.
This is my perception/belief of most of the Midwest as I mentioned.
And if true, less deer and if what I believe to be a byproduct of that- less big mature bucks then outside of a few neighborhoods/areas that are rare exceptions the answer to Skips question has to be worse. At least from the hunters position. If you’re a farmer or auto insurance company then it’s “better” lol.
Again, I’m fully convinced that we’ve all been brain washed in to killing more does than should be. My 2 cents
 

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
Totally agree: area specific!!! Heck, there’s blocks that are a wasteland that used to be deer paradise in iowa. There’s also land where hunting was junk (mainly due to management & hunting pressure) that are now great.

Very hard to measure. I don’t think you scientifically could. Too many variables. Best way, IMO is have an open discussion like THIS to get feedback from around the state.

The guys above who have areas where far too many does got shot & EHD hammered…. I wonder how many of those areas have also seen a big spike in COYOTE numbers?!?!? I’m telling you- I see it first hand all over- they are out of control crazy high in every area I’m around. U get less trappers (even with more predator hunters) & coyote #’s have skyrocketed. Huge impact. They destroy fawns & im 100000000% sure I’ve found bucks that they have circled or ran down to exhaustion. I saw a buck with a tiny limp last year where he didn’t run when coyotes came out …. & right after he was laying dead in the field. Anecdotal but coyotes are a huuuugggggeeee problem. Add that To a population that’s low & it’s one more big obstacle to getting ahead. Those silent night-time killers are bad bad bad!!! BUT… Nothing is a threat to deer like POLITICIANS & SPECIAL INTERESTS! ;)

Great thoughts above. Agree with all the thoughts & complexity.
 

chipterp

PMA Member
I’m going to say worse! Our areas keep going downhill every year because of the “highly managed neighborhoods” where most of the neighbors are out of state owners chasing one big bucks a year and the doe population is out of control.
 

sep0667

Land of the Whitetail
Lots there to digest but think I read that deer vehicle accidents were down around 20% in 2019 and down another 8% in 2020. Also seems to clearly state that deer populations are definitely lower today then 10-15 years ago.
This is my perception/belief of most of the Midwest as I mentioned.
And if true, less deer and if what I believe to be a byproduct of that- less big mature bucks then outside of a few neighborhoods/areas that are rare exceptions the answer to Skips question has to be worse. At least from the hunters position. If you’re a farmer or auto insurance company then it’s “better” lol.
Again, I’m fully convinced that we’ve all been brain washed in to killing more does than should be. My 2 cents
Agree. And there are more people, cars on the road, in the state now than 20 years ago too.

I've never really been a strong believer in that fewer does makes bigger bucks. IMO the more deer there are, the more odds of bigger bucks being around.
 

Rous14

Well-Known Member
Totally agree: area specific!!! Heck, there’s blocks that are a wasteland that used to be deer paradise in iowa. There’s also land where hunting was junk (mainly due to management & hunting pressure) that are now great.

Very hard to measure. I don’t think you scientifically could. Too many variables. Best way, IMO is have an open discussion like THIS to get feedback from around the state.

The guys above who have areas where far too many does got shot & EHD hammered…. I wonder how many of those areas have also seen a big spike in COYOTE numbers?!?!? I’m telling you- I see it first hand all over- they are out of control crazy high in every area I’m around. U get less trappers (even with more predator hunters) & coyote #’s have skyrocketed. Huge impact. They destroy fawns & im 100000000% sure I’ve found bucks that they have circled or ran down to exhaustion. I saw a buck with a tiny limp last year where he didn’t run when coyotes came out …. & right after he was laying dead in the field. Anecdotal but coyotes are a huuuugggggeeee problem. Add that To a population that’s low & it’s one more big obstacle to getting ahead. Those silent night-time killers are bad bad bad!!! BUT… Nothing is a threat to deer like POLITICIANS & SPECIAL INTERESTS! ;)

Great thoughts above. Agree with all the thoughts & complexity.
Guess my only concern though Skip is that while yes it’s technically “area specific”, if 80-90% of the entire area (be it by county or state level) is significantly worse (as pretty much all the available scientific data shows) then just bc a few guys in the minority 10-20% of the area have it as good or better doesn’t mean that there’s not a pretty big problem with how we’re managing the herd.
And that big problem doesn’t really get recognized or addressed because mentally we chalk everything up to area specific. If that makes any sense?
 
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