White-tailed deer were reported to be quite abundant when white settlers arrived in Iowa in the early 1800’s. Uncontrolled exploitation for food and hides rapidly reduced deer numbers and by 1880 deer were rarely sighted in much of the state.
In 1898 the deer season was legally closed. By this time deer had been virtually eliminated from all of Iowa.
Reestablishment of deer into the state can be traced to escapes and releases from captive herds and translocation and natural immigration from deer herds in surrounding states. A conservative estimate of the population in 1936 placed statewide numbers at between 500 and 700 animals.
This small herd grew steadily. By 1950 deer were reported in most counties and the statewide estimate topped 10,000. Concentrations in some areas were beginning to cause problems by damaging agricultural crops.
In response to these problems the first modern deer season was held in December of 1953 and 4,000 deer were killed. Currently, the deer herd is estimated to be about 200,000 after the hunting season and harvests have approached 100,000 in recent years.
Careful management of deer populations by man has played a crucial role in allowing deer numbers to return to the levels enjoyed today. Management consists of carefully regulating the harvest since hunting provides the only major source of mortality for deer today.
Unchecked, Iowa’s deer herd would double in as few as 3 years. With Iowa’s abundant agricultural crops providing food, densities could potentially reach 100 or more deer per square mile before natural regulatory mechanisms would begin to affect deer health and slow the rate of growth.
Deer numbers this high would cause economic hardship to Iowa’s landowners as well as alter the natural vegetative community. Maintaining a deer population in balance with the wants and needs of the people in the state is a difficult task, but hunting is the only viable management option to achieve this goal. (From Iowa DNR website)