Iowa deer hunters ready to take the field Saturday

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PALO, Iowa (KCRG-TV9)- For Iowa hunters, Saturday, December 2nd is a big, big day. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expects to see as many as 60,000 hunters out for the start of the state’s shotgun deer season.

A natural area near Palo open to public hunting. Iowa's first shotgun season for deer opens Saturday with 60,000 hunters expected to participate.

And with mild weather expected, even more hunters than usual may go out on opening day.

For businesses that depend on hunters, the weeks before the start of shotgun season can be the busiest time of the whole year. They’re swamped with hunters buying licenses and last minute gear.

One hunter preparing to go out opening day, John Fisher, says deer season just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

“Oh man, it’s huge now. I can’t imagine what it does for the economy,” he said.

Tim Powers, Iowa field director for Whitetails Unlimited, actually has some ideas about the impact from recent conversations with DNR staffers.

“It’s billions of dollars that are spent nationally. But for the state of Iowa, they say roughly 8,000-9,000 jobs depend on hunting,” Powers said.

A few years ago, the Iowa DNR tallied up the overall impact of deer hunting. A 2014 report put the final deer seasons figure at slightly under $300-million dollars.

Matt Schrantz of Palo Outdoors says years ago it was pheasant season that drove a lot of the hunting action. Then pheasant numbers fell and haven’t recovered yet.

So now, it’s all about the deer.

“We still have a lot of outdoorsmen who want to get out in the field. The pheasant populations have been down so they’ve switched their interests to hunting deer,” he said.

The Iowa DNR says deer numbers have dropped a bit since the mid-2000s. That’s by design as Iowa lawmakers ordered the agency to allow extra hunting to reduce numbers.

Still, the DNR expects hunters to do as well as last year with slightly more than 100,000 deer taken during all the hunting seasons.

Iowa’s first shotgun season for deer runs from Saturday until Wednesday. The second season, which should draw an additional 60,000 hunters, runs from December 9th through the 17th.

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