State Sen. Ken Rozenboom

State Senator Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa)

(Des Moines) -- A proposal in the Iowa Senate would change deer hunting regulations and require a new study of deer population in the state.

State Senator Ken Rozenboom -- a Republican from Oskaloosa -- has introduced Senate File 464, which cleared a subcommittee Wednesday morning. The bill makes a number of changes to deer hunting regulations in the state and would require the Department of Natural Resources to study deer populations and environmental impacts of those populations in each county. Rozenboom says there is a large problem with deer in his area.

"In my mind, it's evident that we have a deer overpopulation problem, at least in some counties in southern Iowa," said Rozenboom.  "I think we do around the state, but I'm more certain of myself in the counties that I'm familiar with."

The bill would allow the state to establish a special anterless season for each county where there are unsold deer tags after the close of the late muzzleloader season in January. The extra season would allow hunters to use high-powered rifles to fill out anterless tags.

"In Appanoose County -- one of my counties -- the DNR's target was to have 2,700 deer taken this past year, but only 2,200 were taken," said Rozenboom.  "So, that's 500 deer that are out there.  We know that we have to control those anterless deer to ultimately control the population."

Another provision of the bill would lower the cost of a deer depredation permit, which allows landowners or hunters with landowner permission to get tags for deer that are deemed a nuisance to a property. Jim Obradovich is a lobbyist for the Iowa Conservation Alliance, which is registered against the bill. He says they would like to see depredation permits issued at a more local level.

"We really want the state to take a look at devolving the decision-making on depredation permits and moving it out of a central location here in Des Moines," said Obradovich.  "And then actually having the conservation officers who know their areas the best, be the ones who are able to issue those permits.  We wouldn't be breaking new ground with this by any means.  We have some neighboring states who do that."

Matthew Steinfeldt lobbies on behalf of the Iowa Farm Bureau. He says they are in support of a smaller overall deer herd in Iowa.

"Our members believe that Iowa should pursue a smaller overall deer population," said Steinfeldt.  "In particular, we appreciate the improvements to the deer depredation program.  We believe that this bill will help Iowa's landowners and farmers better be able to protect their property from deer damage."

State Senator Bill Dotzler -- a Democrat from Waterloo -- voted against the measure in subcommittee. He says he has an objection to the use of high-powered rifles for the added anterless season. He cites an example he encountered living in the country when hunters began shooting at deer on his property from the road.

"I was 150 yards from the road," said Dotzler.  "I am very concerned about the use of a high-powered weapon in rural Iowa and how far those slugs can go.  I'm very concerned about that.  Unless I get better assurances on this or we strike that section, I'm going to have to be a no on this."

One final provision would lower the civil penalty for illegally taking a deer. Currently, the civil penalty portion totals $1,500, which does not include fines and other court costs. In its current form, the bill would reduce that penalty to just $50, however, Rozenboom says he is exploring an amendment to raise that amount. The bill now heads to the full Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

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