By Kate Klimesh,
In the Driftless area, avid hunters are spoiled by having some of the best quality deer in the nation, with northeast Iowa in particular being a destination area for whitetail hunting. Hunters travel from every state to hunt this area and pay for the privilege. With this high level of expectation, there can also be an increased risk of poaching.
Capt. Eric Johnston, DNR Conservation Officer Supervisor, stated, “As a general rule in law enforcement, you estimate we catch two to three percent of what happens. The more the public reports it, the higher that percentage is. It’s like having extra eyes and ears out there to see what’s going on.” Johnson reports in Osage, they have an average of 10 deer cases each year investigated for poaching, with the majority shot during the nighttime hours.
“It’s basic crime prevention, and poaching is definitely a crime; if you see it, hear it, report it.”
Winneshiek County DNR Conservation Officer Sgt. Brian Roffman noted, “Hunting at night, out of season is poaching, but its also hunters putting a fraudulent tag on something they didn’t qualify for, or bow hunters hunting deer over bait, so it’s really hard to know actual numbers of poaching each year. Theres at least one or two big deer found each year, but we rely on people calling in what they find.”
Roffman added, “For landowners looking for signs of poaching, it’s like a neighborhood watch. If you see cars you don’t know, or someone driving slow in low light hours, or if you see someone shooting from the road, or hear gun shots when you know no one should be out there. Call it in.”
Cell phone popularity has made a big difference in reporting. Roffman said, “Now people can report right away, from their tree stand, from their farm, whenever they see something. We’ve gotten texts too, some with pictures or a google map with a pin in it so we know just where to look. That has really helped, and we do encourage
anyone seeing signs of illegal hunting activity to contact us.”
Last season, many hunters mourned the loss of a gorgeous buck shot illegally west of Fort Atkinson that was left in the field as the poachers were scared off. This deer was caught on the landowner’s trail cam prior to the poaching event roaming free and siring more champion bucks. The landowner noted there was a young man he knew who had been hunting that big buck for a few years, and had spent hours tracking it and getting pictures with his trail cam, trying to bag what the landowner called, “the biggest deer I’ve ever seen on our farm.”
The landowner was called by a neighbor, who saw strange cars parked along a gravel road after dark, and alerted the landowner of suspicious activity. In the morning, the landowner was called again by another neighbor who spotted the deer laying in his field. “Whoever did that shot more than that deer, they shot a lot of people’s hopes who had been legally hunting that buck for years.”
Many poachers are only after antlers, and if undisturbed in their crime, the only evidence remaining may be portions of a deer carcass. The NRA Leadership forum states, “Poaching is illegal and unethical. Hunting is legal and ethical. Poachers are no different from thieves who break into a store to rob a cash register. They trespass, kill and steal animals and fish illegally, often for profit. Poaching is a costly crime. It robs legitimate sportsmen of game and fish, robs landowners, businesses and taxpayers of revenue generated by hunting and fishing and robs humans of our valuable, renewable, wildlife natural resources.”
The annual book of Iowa DNR hunting regulations, available free online at iowadnr.gov, also contains a great deal of information, including “dos” and “don’ts” for each hunting season, category and resources that show the number of tags available, phone numbers to call, and any special information regarding the 2022 hunting seasons for most species. With any tag purchased, knowing the information in this guide is mandatory.
Changes to the season
January antlerless deer-only season has been conditionally reinstated in Allamakee, Appanoose, Decatur, Monroe, Wayne and Winneshiek counties. The season will be reinstated in each county only if the number of unsold county antlerless deer-only licenses exceeds 100 on the third Monday in December. Licenses will be available the same day the season is reinstated. Only antlerless deer may be taken during the Population Management January Antlerless-Only season. Hunting is allowed on public and private land with permission. Shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders, bows, crossbows and center-fire rifles .223 caliber and larger may be used.
Mandatory harvest reporting for deer and wild turkey
Hunters who harvest a deer or wild turkey must report the harvest to the DNR by midnight on the day after it is tagged, before taking it to a locker or taxidermist, before processing it for consumption or before transporting it out-of-state – whichever occurs first. The hunter whose name is on the transportation tag is responsible for making the report. Failure to report or reporting falsely may result in a misdemeanor citation and possible loss of hunting privileges.
How to report a harvest:
1. Online at www.iowadnr.gov, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
2. By phone at the toll-free phone number printed on the harvest report tag, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
3. Through a license vendor during regular business hours.
4. By texting your registration number to 1-800-771-4692 and follow the prompts.
5. Through the Go Iowa Outdoors app.
The Harvest Reporting System will issue a confirmation number to the hunter that must be written on the Harvest Report Tag and attached to the leg of the animal. Failure to do so may result in a misdemeanor citation.
Minnesota TIP Line (Turn in Poachers): 800-652-9093
Iowa TIP Line: 1-800-532-2020
Iowa DNR Conservation officer contact information:
• Allamakee County Burt Walters, 563-880-0108
• Fayette County Chris Jones, 319-939-4448
• Winneshiek County Brian Roffman, 563-380-0496