URBAN HUNTING: Iowa’s Whitetail Deer Herd Manageable

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Data pix.

Good conservation practices have helped Iowa’s whitetail deer herd increase by 99 percent over the past 75 years.  But a bigger deer population isn’t always better, particularly in the metro.

In the city, deer cross paths with speeding cars and angry gardeners.

The Iowa DNR met with city officials from around the metro on Thursday to discuss how well urban deer hunts work to control the problem of deer in the 21st century.

It may seem counter-intuitive but for deer, the city can be a sanctuary.  And while people enjoyed the sight of deer for a while, when their plants started to go missing from gardens and traffic accidents rose, they didn’t seem so cute.

Iowa’s urban deer hunt was conceived in the early 1990s but it’s taken a while to catch on and effectively thin the metro herds.  The report Des Moines shared with the DNR on Thursday showed the deer herds now are considered manageable.

In Urbandale, there were 50 deer taken in the urban hunt which began in September.  Although that number is way down from last year, it’s considerably higher than in other areas.  West Des Moines has well over 100 per square-mile and just 16 were taken in the last urban hunt.

But it’s up to the cities, not the DNR to set the rules for the urban hunts.

All urban hunts must be done with bows, not guns.  Hunters must be elevated so that errant shots hit the ground.  Most cities say the hunter can be no farther than 25-yards from their target and all must pass a demanding skills test.

The DNR says no one has ever been injured by an urban hunter.

More information on urban hunts is available on the Polk County website here.  


  • Joe

    The drop in population has nothing to do with harvesting the deer. The drop in population is state wide. The last two years of drought making EHD devastate the Iowa deer population. The Iowa DNR won’t tell anyone so they can still sell hunting license.

  • Jason M

    Actually, it is all of the above. The populations have been hurt by over hunting (The DNR killed off too many does.) and the recent droughts have driven the remaining deer to fewer watering holes, allowing for disease to spread among them.

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