DES MOINES, Iowa - Some question whether Iowa needs to continue giving celebrities easy access to deer hunting in the state, but it appears unlikely that the promotional program will be scrapped.
The state program gives 75 celebrities, such as rocker Ted Nugent and former professional athlete Bo Jackson, an opportunity to buy a special out-of-state deer hunting permit each year. Other nonresidents might wait years to buy a similar permit.
The celebrity program began in 1998 to help promote the state as a top hunting destination.
Iowa Bowhunters Association President Randy Taylor tells the Des Moines Register that he's not sure the state really needs the promotion anymore.
"There is no deer hunter nationwide who doesn't consider Iowa one of the trophy hot spots in the nation," Taylor said.
Iowa routinely receives thousands more requests than can be filled each year from out-of-state hunters. So the program isn't popular with the people who sometimes wait years for one of about 6,000 nonresident permits to harvest deer of any sex.
A state committee ranks celebrity applications on a point system. The applicants most likely to win a hunting tag are the ones the state believes will garner the most media exposure for Iowa.
The celebrities pay the same $551 fee that other nonresidents pay for the hunting tag. Iowa residents pay $89 for theirs.
A few of the special celebrity tags are given to nonprofit conservation groups that often auction them off to nonresidents. Those auctions can raise $6,000 to $10,000, and the proceeds are split with the state.
Steve Dermand, who helps oversee the program for Iowa's Department of Natural Resources, says he's heard the complaints, but he doesn't think anyone is ready to eliminate the program.
"When this started, Iowa was just becoming recognized as having a good deer resource. This came along during that growth time," Dermand said. "Now, Iowa is high-enough profile, the state is in all the hunting magazines and where to go for whitetail."
State Sen. Dick Dearden of Des Moines, chairman of the Senate natural resources committee, said he doubts the program will be eliminated. He also doesn't expect a change in the number of general out-of-state tags.
So it's likely that celebrities like country singers Toby Keith, Aaron Tippin and Miranda Lambert will continue to get access to deer hunting in Iowa along with professional hunters like Mark Luster.