DNR seeks public input before hunting season returns

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Photo by Todd Sauers

Creatures both furry and feathery are enjoying relative safety during the year's early winter, but soon hunting season will be upon them again. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources would like to hear from the state's hunters this month in order to guide the department in updating or changing its rules and regulations. Representatives of the DNR will be hold a moderated town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji.

"We want people to come out, listen to the hunting seasons reviews, ask questions and hear directly from our staff," Todd Bishop, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Wildlife Bureau said.

Chris LaRue, wildlife biologist with the DNR, stressed the meeting is specifically focused on hunting and trapping, rather than other local issues which may involve the DNR. The town hall sessions replaced the DNR's previous listening sessions, which were done through the Iowa Communications Network. LaRue said, as technology improved, the ICN's large-scale electronic conference network became less efficient for the DNR sessions, and the decision was made to return to a previous format.

"The important part is that the public understands they have an opportunity to comment and make their voice heard, as far as possible suggestions or changes that could be considered before the rule-making process takes place," LaRue said.

The DNR will provide a brief overview of the previous hunting seasons, such as deer, waterfowl and muskrat, as well as other related topics, before fielding questions. He said the sessions' focus typically draws hunters and trappers.

"You have some folks that may want to see, for instance, the waterfowl season open on a different date or be pushed back later in the year," LaRue said. "You may have other folks that want to comment about the structure of the deer season or something of that nature."

The sessions are important for the public to not only know the schedule for their preferred hunting season, but also to be sure they are following the most up-to-date rules and regulations, according to LaRue. He said a majority of the questions received during the sessions have to do with law enforcement, and the DNR tries to have at least one conservation officer present to take those questions. LaRue went on to say the DNR seeks not only positive points of the current wildlife management model, but also suggestions to improve what is being done.

"We take all of those (comments) and they're all then briefed and sent down to Des Moines, or they can turn in an individual comment without even attending the meeting," LaRue said. "Those comments are then obviously taken into consideration and basically taken to the Natural Resource Commission for the year."

LaRue said he had yet to be informed of any specific changes the DNR might consider. He said more information may be passed down closer to the session date. However, he noted the DNR extended the muskrat trapping season from Feb. 1 to April 1 in a dozen areas of northwest Iowa. Locally, Dickinson County trappers may legally set their muskrat traps in Diamond Lake, West Hottes and Marble Lake. To the south, trappers in Clay County can try their luck for the rodents on Trumbull Lake and Barringer Slough. LaRue said there is a surplus population of muskrat in the chosen areas, and an extended trapping season will help preserve marshy vegetation muskrats consume, which will in turn maintain a more balanced ecosystem. DNR Furbearer Biologist Vince Evelsizer said the extended season is essentially a tool to manage the wildlife areas.

"Several studies have shown the additional harvest will not reduce the numbers to the point of overharvest," he said.

Trappers will be allowed to place their traps in muskrat dens during the extended season to avoid catching another wetland animal or migratory bird, according to Evelsizer.

Aside from the current coyote season, LaRue said the next major season will be spring turkey hunting. He said the season typically starts in early April, but the specific date may shift some depending on how the department's regulations come out this year.

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