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From squirrel to deer: Iowa hunters review season, share concerns with state officials

Posted at 9:34 AM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 18:04:21-05

UPDATE Feb. 23, 2024*

Hunters gathered in Council Bluffs for a listening session with officials from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The purpose was to re-cap the hunting season and exchange information about animals and habitat.

  • Eighteen-year-old Cooper Marvel is a student at Fremont Mills High School in Tabor. He brought a group of friends to the meeting. His concern? When will DNR re-open Forney Lake, a popular hunting spot in Fremont County that was closed during the 2019 floods.
  • Wildlife biologist Matt Dollison says the deer population isn't rebounding the way they'd like to see. He called it "a bit of a mystery" and says there might be several reasons.
  • A notable bright spot: after a steep decline two decades ago, the pheasant population is improving.
  • Biologists say there were very few reported cases of Chronic Wasting Disease in western Iowa this year.

* The Iowa DNR followed-up with 3 News Now by email saying the Forney Lake area is still open for hunting and other recreation.


Hunters will often say that they’re among the first people to think about conservation. I’m your southwest Iowa neighborhood reporter Katrina Markel in Council Bluffs where folks gathered to hear a hunting season recap from the Iowa Department of National Resources.

“You give ‘em the habitat. They’re going to be there. There’s enough to go around for the predators and us humans,” said one attendee.

Standing room only as hunters and DNR officials shared insights on the wildlife population from squirrel to turkey to deer.

Biologist Matt Dollison led the listening session: “A lot of concerns I expect to hear about will be related to the drought we’ve had ... The waterfowl hunters will be concerned because there was very limited wetland habitat out there this year with the drought…”

Fremont Mills High School senior, Cooper Marvel, brought a group of his friends — all teens — to the meeting. Forney Lake is a big hunting spot for waterfowl in Fremont County.

“So, about five years ago when the flood came through, they kind of shut it down ... it actually brought a lot of hunters down into Fremont County,” said Marvel.

The deer population has been relatively low in Iowa since 2012. Dollison says it’s not chronic wasting disease — a problem in other states — but, it might be other diseases or that quotas on hunting antlerless deer need to be reduced.

“It’s a bit of a mystery, though, why the population isn’t rebounding from the quotes reductions we’ve already done,” Dollison said.

After the meeting, Marvel texted me saying he still has a lot of questions about Forney Lake’s closure, but community members aren’t giving up on finding solutions…

Marvel: “I’d be happy to run something, so they could raise money to fix the pumps if they’re broken.”

Habitat and animal health: on the minds of those who spend time in nature.

In Council Bluffs, I'm your southwest Iowa neighborhood reporter