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Hunting’s Important Role in Conservation

Deer hunting has been practiced at Hitchcock Nature Center since 1991 and is an important conservation method. Read on to learn more about why building connections with hunters is important for preserving and managing land.

Please note: While Hitchcock Nature Center has maintained active hunting during deer hunting season since the park opened in 1991, hunting is NOT allowed at other Pottawattamie Conservation parks. Hunting is allowed at these Pottawattamie Conservation Habitat Areas: Crescent Wildlife Area, Wheeler Grove Conservation Area and Farm Creek Public Wildlife Area.


“The further we distance ourselves from the spell of the present, explored by our senses, the harder it will be to understand and protect nature's precarious balance, let alone the balance of our own human nature.” - Diane Ackerman

Balance. From a land management perspective, this is our ultimate goal at Pottawattamie Conservation - to manage land in ethical ways and support balanced and appropriate species populations, both plant and animal.

A small part of this work is deer hunting, which has been allowed at Hitchcock during hunting season since the park opened in 1991. Initially hunting was done to cut back on population, but today it helps keep pressure on the current herd and maintain a healthy number of animals.

Our Natural Areas Management staff also rely on the hunter’s perspective to help them better understand how many deer are in the park, the health of the population and any changes to or interesting observations of the park’s ecosystem.

While a hiker may see a park as more of a playground, or a birder may prioritize a park’s ideal viewing spots, hunters also have a unique connection to the land.

“Hunting is an important part of our culture,” said Chad Graeve, Natural Resource Specialist with Pottawattamie Conservation. “When we harvest food from the land we have a stronger connection to it, and we become better stewards of that land.”

Iowa itself has an interesting and complicated history with deer hunting, and at one point in the late 1800s deer were actually driven to extirpation in the state due to unregulated practices. With rules, training and a strong relationship between hunters and those who manage land and wildlife, deer in Iowa are now at a healthy population. To keep it that way, regular maintenance through hunting helps ensure less conflict between humans, deer, plants and other species that are impacted by overgrazing or disease.

Hitchcock Nature Center staff take careful steps to prioritize hunting safety and responsibility by: 

  • Limiting hunters and the deer quota
  • Requiring hunters to apply
  • Requiring approved hunters to go through training - ONLY approved hunters may hunt at Hitchcock
  • Requiring lead-free ammo
  • Requiring hunters to report injured deer and deer that are taken from the park
  • Requiring hunters to maintain specific distances from trails, buildings, the campground and residences for safety
  • Prohibiting attractants and party hunting

Hitchcock does not close during hunting season, and hunters are aware that there may be visitors out on the trails and within the park. We recommend that anyone who plans on hiking at Hitchcock during the fall and winter months stay informed of hunting seasons, stay on trails, and as an extra safety measure consider wearing bright-colored clothing.

For updated hunting season schedules, please check with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Interested in learning more about hunting at Hitchcock? Let us know by sending a note to:

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