A male deer on the run.

A special deer hunt that has never been done before is underway in far northeast Iowa.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kevin Baskins says the state is looking to harvest 200 deer in Allamakee County to run more checks for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). “We are using something that’s called a scientific collection permit — which allows us to issue permits to people to help us gather the scientific data that we need for this particular effort,” Baskins explains.

The special hunt was spurred tests this year confirming CWD in samples taken from deer in the area. “We had three wild deer that tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease — add that to the one that we had the previous year — there’s a total of four now that are in a fairly small area of Allamakee County just kind of west of Harpers Ferry,” Baskins explains. “As our biologists looked at this they believe that they need more samples from a very small area to determine what the prevalence of the disease might be.”

The DNR tested 311 deer harvested by hunters in a five mile radius around Harpers Ferry during the recently completed deer seasons, and this hunt will give them a bigger sample to study. “A lot of it has to do with determining are these just tiny sparks out that are out there, you know just kind of isolated incidences, or is the disease more prevalent than what has showed up in our survey or our testing so far,” Baskins says.

The hunt to find 200 additional deer from that area began Saturday and he says roughly 259 people signed up and by Sunday evening hunters had taken 29 deer. Cold weather has hampered the hunt thus far and Baskins says they are hoping better weather will lead to more success. The scientific hunt has less restrictions on it than the normal deer seasons. “The participants are able to harvest these deer without any hunting license of deer tag,” Baskins explains. “The other wrinkle to this that is a little bit different, for this scientific collection event they are able to use high-powered rifles.”

The hunt will continue until they’ve taken 200 deer and then hunters will have the option of keeping the deer once they have been tested. “All of the carcasses, all of the meat and everything will be held until that sample has been completed. And then at that time it is kind of up to the hunter as to what they would prefer as to how that animal is handled,” Baskins says. Any deer that test positive will be disposed of by the DNR.

The state began testing for CWD in 2002 after several surrounding states reported outbreaks of the disease that is fatal to the animals. Some 57,000 deer have been tested since the program began. Baskins says it costs $25 to run one test on a deer, and the cost of the special hunt will be paid for from the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund.

Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR.