City Council includes bow hunting for deer plan

City Council votes to OK an amended deer-control plan to bring to the National Resources Commission for approval.


Roman Slabach

Photo Illustration

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

Despite some councilors’ reservations, the Iowa City City Council on a 5-1 vote has added bow hunting to its long-term plan to manage the local deer population.

The plan was adjusted to include bow hunting for the winter seasons from 2020-2024.

In 2018, the National Resources Commission rejected two requests by Iowa City staff for permits to use sharpshooting as means of thinning the city’s deer population, and on the June 18 City Council meeting, City Manager Geoff Fruin said the staff was prepared to make another request to the commission in July. The commission denied the requests because of its aversion to the use of sharpshooting in the plan.

The new plan includes four years of nonlethal management along with a one-season long sharpshooting scheduled for the 2019-20 winter season. Fruin said the Iowa City Deer Friends was instrumental in putting together nonlethal strategies, which include an annual deer count, fence construction, and driver awareness.

Mayor Jim Throgmorton said that when he read the plan, he was surprised to see no apparent indications about how the deer population would be kept down after the sharpshooting, and without those indicators, he was skeptical that the commission would approve the plan.

“I think all of us were really reluctant to authorize any form of bow hunting, especially within city limits,” Councilor Rockne Cole said. “However, it seemed like the [commission] made it very clear that that was going to be a condition precedent to authorizing the ability to do the sharpshoot.”

Councilor Susan Mimms said she is doing a 180 on bow hunting. Previously, she has not been a supporter of it, but in the interest of taking action to deal with the deer herd, she decided to support it.

The only councilor to vote against the amended plan was Bruce Teague. He wanted to talk to the commission first to see if the members would approve a plan without bow hunting, he said.

“I appreciate the desire to definitely use the tools which they have given us, which is bow hunting, which is unfortunate, so I’m not going to vote in favor,” Teague said.

Some members of the public voiced their concerns with the long-term plan. Iowa City resident Caroline Dieterle said the plan in its current state is wasted time, and that because it allows deer to repopulate after the sharpshooting, it is not management.

“I really don’t expect the commission to approve this because it isn’t management, it’s more or less toleration,” Dieterle said.

The problems posed by an unchecked deer population go beyond road hazards and landscaping damage and include the spreading of communicable diseases and loss of understory plant life, Dieterle said.

“The barefaced fact is the number of deer must be reduced, and the only way to do that is to kill some — that’s the long and short of it,” Dieterle said. “And until we kill some, we’re not going to be successful in doing anything for the public-health threats presented by these deer.”