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Has iowa got BETTER or WORSE in last 10 years?

Rous14

Well-Known 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.
Interesting take.
I’d trade you neighborhoods! Give me an area where the hunters (resident or nr I don’t really care) “highly manage” the neighborhood and only try to shoot one big buck a year in a heartbeat. Way easier/quicker to eliminate a bunch of does then to increase them.
 

Rous14

Well-Known Member
Curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on the number of BC bucks being killed in relation to 10-15 years ago too. My perception, at least in IL, is that there are 25-45% less being killed now than back then.
Which also mirrors the overall reduction in the herd numbers too. I hear all these different reasons why IL isn’t what it once was like too many outfitters, too many nr tags, the genetics have been shot out, etc…. Those things have played a small part imo but by far the biggest issue is the number of deer. If the herd was allowed to grow back to its same levels as 2002-2012 IL would be phenomenal again regardless of those other issues. When there are more older/bigger bucks than hunters can kill then that’s when it gets crazy good bc there’s guaranteed to be a great age structure.
Once again why I feel so strongly about too many does being killed.
As Skip said above, coyotes are huge issue. Disease. Hit by vehicle. There’s plenty of things keeping numbers down, we don’t need to help as much as we do imo.
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
A couple of years preceding and following 2006 was probably the best period of deer hunting I've ever experienced. It was almost too good. Deer everywhere. Mother Nature sure knows how to thin them out with disease when it gets that good.

It's difficult to compare then or even 2012 to now though. So much land has been locked down, and public flooded with hunters, that it's like a totally different game now. There may be areas that are better today than they were then, but I'll never know because I can't get onto them anymore, and public is such a crap shoot. I know if I hold out for a 170 or better, I may never shoot another one. But if I go into the season with the mentality that I'll be happy with whatever gets me excited in the moment, then I'm confident I won't make it through the season empty handed. This is still Iowa after all.

I have seen more deer carcasses along the highways THIS spring and summer than any previous year though, so maybe we're rolling into another boon period.
 
Seems like most responses are worse. Although I can't speak for the late 90s/early 2000s I feel the hunting has been degraded in the past 12 years. I hunt mostly public (95%) and I have seen increasing pressure each year and especially in the last 5 years. I believe this is because of renewed interest in public lands along with residents losing access to private ground through land sales or leases. Most of the public areas get hit hard in gun season and most hunters look at these spots as a good place to fill the freezer as it doesn't impact their private ground or for non-residents they only hunt it every 4-5 years. I have seen a drastic decline in deer numbers and quality of bucks. I think this is due to more liberal seasons and weapons (straight walled cartridges) along with episodic disease outbreaks that seem to happen every 3-5 years and don't allow for replenishing of mature deer. Iowa was one of the last great whitetails states but with the path it is on currently it is only a matter of time until we see it looking like the other great whitetail states of years past unless something changes. I honestly feel bad for the non-residents who wait 4-5 years to hunt public land with expectations of 150+ from TV shows and successful hunters from the prime years. I've talked to many of these hunters and although they tend to have good hunts it is nothing like they were expecting and most of the "big" deer they shoot end up being 120-130 class deer. There are still big deer in some of these areas but they are much fewer than years past and I honestly believe for non-residents they might be better off trying to find an overlooked state with good potential if they are solely focused on public ground. Heck I've talked with groups of Amish who during gun season push every public/private woodlot available to them. A few years back there was a group of 25 who said they had already shot 30+ deer and I talked to them on Day 3 of 5. With disease and pressure good areas are not sustainable. The only option for consistency is with good neighborhoods with large land blocks and even then predators and disease can be the wild card. I truly believe the large deer numbers cited by special interest groups and politicians as reason to have extended weapons and seasons are mainly in areas of high non-resident land owners where deer can harbor. Just my .02
 

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
So far- I’d say unanimously down across the state. Probably a larger decline than I expected to hear. The one eye opener for me is realizing how far some areas have gone for killing off the deer.
In this decline- We can thank: politicians & special interests (farm bureau, iowa firearm coalition, political hacks like Rozenboob, etc) AND…. We can thank our selves & fellow hunters for joining in our own degradation. The one group that can & will change is the educated hunter. Like the folks in the choir here we are preaching to. We will change. It’s imperative we get word out to other hunters & fight off the special interest goons going forward.

It is wild to see areas where deer #’s are crazy. Then see areas where way too many have been killed. Crazy irony & differences across the state. But- based on above feedback- I honestly think I could say with a straight face that above is enough to say we have DECLINED!!!

B&C is the ultimate on “overall” in the state…. IMO - that’s fairly steady. Hard to measure cause it’s so few & many don’t get entered but I feel we have a pretty good pulse on that overall. I’d GUESS its down fairly proportionate to population. Maybe gets hit a bit harder when numbers go down since it takes so long to grow a B&C buck. My area is “STEADY” for B&C IMO. But- I tend to think it’s down statewide now. Killing does, more hunters, more pressure on smaller tracts, EHD, new weapons - all of that combined would be why.
Avoiding EHD, killing coyotes, not killing does & not shooting young bucks- all can swing things back after time. Hope it happens. The one bottom line I will ALWAYS circle back to…. We better be ready to defend iowa - this year & every year. The politicians are getting more bold & outrageous. We can fight & win but we have to be diligent & get organized when it comes.
Friendly & happy reminder folks…. If anyone does think it’s bad here (which it very well could be & we need to watch this close)…. I PROMISE you it could be worse. Go spend a deer season in MI!!!! You will never complain about iowa again!!! ;)

***I could sort bucks over say “180” “ over past 30 years & make it into a graph by year. Easy as pie! I remember doing this by county when I was younger & curious…. (Shhhhh, Monroe county won, by a good bit ;) ).
 

JNRBRONC

Moderator
I avoided talking about pressure in my earlier post.

When we bought ground back in 1991, there was a large group that pushed the river bottom during shotgun season. We’d see pickup loads of orange going by as they organized drives. That is nonexistent anymore. I know of other groups that have disbanded. Why? Small key parcels were bought for recreational purposes and they did not grant permission for large deer drives. Lots of local 40 acre parcels were bought up. So that long river bottom push got harder, if not impossible. I see both sides of that, times change, ownership and permission reigns.

Along with this, the local trend has been to lease. Local hunters don’t care to “buy the cow when the milk used to be free”, so the landowners sell rights on the Internet. Across the road, hunters from Louisiana used to hold the lease, now NR from Wisconsin. The NR probably has limited time to hunt, so maybe this is a good thing for the herd in my area? Granted, they aren’t paying to come here and shoot a dink, so might be taking some decent bucks out of the herd (glad for them).

A drive around the neighborhood now has stands, blinds and wagons on about every property. I’d say pressure has increased HUGELY, for better or for the worse. Pressure mainly on 3 or 4 year old bucks? Not sure how many are taking does. Even with that pressure, I’m not changing my goals because “someone else will shoot it”. If it trips their trigger, good for them.

Used to be a huge poaching problem in my area. With a few arrests, that has calmed down. I think trailcams have made those law breakers think twice, also a plus.

Stepping off the soapbox.
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
Urban sprawl is another thing to take into consideration, depending on where you live. I love to hunt close to home if possible and that's Central / SW Central Iowa. We've lost SO MUCH productive farmland and small wildlife havens to urban sprawl over the past 20 years. It's truly gut wrenching if you have any mid / long term memory left. I've got a small meandering creek that runs through the bottom of my property and it flash floods every time we have anything more than a sprinkle. The aerial shots show how dramatically it's course changes year to year now, as compared to 10, 20 and 30 years ago. Where there used to be farmland and timber, now there's concrete and housing units. Deer can still thrive inside human communities, but in a totally different way. Hunting them becomes difficult to impossible though... ;)
 

madplotter

PMA 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???

For me, no question it is worse in my area.

-The amount of hunters in our small area is up for no other reason than leasing and reduced inventory. I used to know every hunter, bet I don't know half now.
-The deer population is down but nothing to worry about...yet. There is zero crop damage from deer.
-The amount of wooded areas is down due to clearing.
-One 5 acre patch that feeds into our farm sees roughly 10 individual hunters/groups over all the deer seasons.
-We used to hunt 5 different areas for archery, we are down to my farm due to hunter competition.
-Deer are well educated. I have watched deer behavior change dramatically as far as being call shy and skittish.
-Increase in farmers kids hunting has been tough. They have no ground to hunt of their own so they are getting access to good ground through the "network".
-So many very young hunters are not practicing and the result is not good. I have watched a local duo wound/lose multiple deer season after season.
-Bobcats are overwhelming our area.

Good things...

-This forum is still operating. Unfortunately, good forums are dying regularly.
-It's not goose hunting. In our area, those boys deal with so much more drama and dumb stuff than bowhunters.
-So many friends have eased up on bowhunting and hit predator hunting hard.
-The younger generation are positive and don't know any different so they likely wont be impacted.
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
Confession... I've laid off the does more and more as the years have gone by. I passed on does all together last year. Unfortunately, with commodity prices being as high as they are this year, I'm filling my freezers, and won't feel the slightest bit bad about it.
 

CurtisWalker

Moderator
My area is absolutely awful compared to what it was 7-10 years ago. Mature bucks are few and far between when it used to be 5-10 on camera every year.


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Windlooker

Active Member
A common denominator in the responses have been increased pressure, large parcels broken up, loss of farms to outfitters, and uptick in NR land purchases.

All valid reasons to include others not mentioned.

Why have the mentioned variables occurred or increased???

Answer that honestly and the problem is inside the gates manipulating and profiting to the detriment of their own.
 
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Obsessed

Well-Known Member
A common denominator in the responses have been increased pressure, large parcels broken up, loss of farms to outfitters, and uptick in NR land purchases.
All valid reasons to include others not mentioned.

Why have the mentioned variables occurred or increased???

Answer that honestly and the problem is inside the gates manipulating and profiting to the detriment of their own.
Deer hunting shows and marketing.
 

JNRBRONC

Moderator
Pressure has definitely increased. Lots more hunters now. Makes me shake my head when new legislation is pushed in the name of hunter recruitment. I always respond with just where are they supposed to hunt?

Urban sprawl was mentioned. I hunt a property in urban sprawl and it has nose dived in quality. Used to be great, killed many decent deer off it back in the day. Why? Pressure. The property line is ringed with a tree stand every 50 yards, just across the fence. I keep hunting it as things can turn in an instance. Plus, with the housing density, not much gun hunting (though a few are probably shot out the kitchen patio door with a cup of coffee in hand).

I haven’t weighed in on better or worse yet, but thinking through it all, I’d say worse at this point. Not pessimistic though, if I put in the time, I can get on some good deer.

Need to look at license sales to see if hunter numbers have increased like I think they have.


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JUNIOR

Active Member
Shoot, pressure and competition has been more prevalent in the past 5 years than before. One particular farm comes to mind. Family owned a 300ish piece but we had access to 700-800 give or take. Up until a couple years ago there were one maybe two other bow hunters over the whole area and one shotgun group. It is a high density area and it wouldn’t be a shocker to push 200+ deer in one drive. For the most part a majority of that ground was untouched (other than the crop fields) until hunting season. In recent years, the neighboring property to north and south were bought by the same person making pushing during shotgun season obsolete (no permission granted). The new owner has added a ton of pressure to the north and south as he/or company is on the properties very often. They also added box blinds and food plots. I have taken consideration that maybe he is just pulling deer off the farm but I don’t think that’s the case as I can see his plots from my stands. Camera action isn’t the same as before. The numbers are still high compared to other areas i hunt but still not close to the numbers they were 5-6 years ago. I really do believe that their frequent presence on those properties is a major factor to what is going on for that particular area. Sadly enough, recently some business decisions were made and that family farm sold…. To the same guy that bought the neighboring farms. As they say, gotta pay to play.


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Obsessed

Well-Known Member
Sadly enough, recently some business decisions were made and that family farm sold…. To the same guy that bought the neighboring farms. As they say, gotta pay to play.

Uggg! This is what gets me. Growing up, hunting was something that wasn't hip to 99.5% of the public. I enjoyed it for what it was. I couldn't give a crap about golf, or cars, or sports, or name any other typical man vice. I enjoy hunting. And part of it is the fact that I get away from everybody else. Now it's become hip and EVERYBODY wants a piece of it. I'm a big believer in capitalism, but damnit why can't these wealthy assholes just go back to their million other hobbies to waste $ on, and leave our hunting grounds alone. Today it's all chopped up and locked down because everybody want's to be cool like Lakowski. (I'm not jealous of the $. I am pissy about what's happened to hunting land access.)
 

Windlooker

Active Member
Junior , is the wealthy a**hole person, as cited by Obsessed, buying up the ground around you a resident or NR??
 
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IowaBowHunter1983

Super Moderator
Staff member
Access is a giant issue. I have no clue what the solution is and frankly I am not sure there is one.

It does not help there are lobbyist such as Farm Bureau that do everything they can to limit public land (They attempt to make it illegal or majorly obstructive for state or non-profit groups to buy land for future public access)
 

Windlooker

Active Member
It’s not Farm Bureau. It’s Iowa resident celeb hunters bringing people here. That’s it. Period. This has been 20 years in the making.
 

IowaBowHunter1983

Super Moderator
Staff member
because everybody want's to be cool like Lakowski. (I'm not jealous of the $. I am pissy about what's happened to hunting land access.)
"being cool", ego, narcissism, etc may be influencing some folks, but I don't think that is the driving force for the vast majority of people "Buying up ground. The vast majority just want to protect quality hunting.

I understand the angst with pay-to-play and at the same time I have a major problem with entitlement. There is a line to walk somewhere.

This is why I bring up public access above.

Do folks realize Iowa is last in the continental United States in % of acres open to public access (.7%)? DEAD LAST. This is an issue.
 
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