The state’s flourishing deer population is a headache for Iowa Christmas tree growers. Jim Dixon has a small farm near Norwalk, south of Des Moines, and says his stock suffered heavily last winter.Bucks will rub antlers and usually ruin a few trees, but last winter was a hard one and the deer ate off the “browsing points,” the new needles at the tips. Dixon says neighbors who used repellent spray reported no success, though he has luck with a makeshift fence.A string of plastic baler twine apparently makes deer think it’s a real fence, and sometimes they leave. Dixon says it’s not practical to fence a larger tree farm. Farmers want the right to shoot more deer out-of-season to save their crops, and Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge says she’s been hearing from them. She says hunting is good for tourism, but has to co-exist with agriculture, and right now growers are taking more than their share of damage from the deer. Judge says one solution might be easing rules to give a deer-shooting permit to farmers. But D-N-R wildlife bureau chief Richard Bishop says that may not be the answer. He says you can shoot and shoot the deer, but more will come along, so you may need to fence it. Iowa has more than 165 Christmas-tree farms. The D-N-R’s been invited to send a speaker to the growers’ annual convention in January.
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