For Iowa’s deer hunters, the wait is nearly over, shotgun deer seasons begin Dec. 3
Iowa’s most popular deer hunting seasons are just around the corner, when roughly 100,000 blaze orange clad hunters take to the timber and wildlife experts are forecasting another good year.
“Our deer population is stable to slightly increasing statewide, so hunters should expect to see numbers similar to last year,” said Tyler Harms, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The two shotgun seasons see the highest numbers of hunters participating, which also leads to significant deer harvest, all condensed into less than three weeks in December.
“About half of our annual deer harvest statewide each year occurs during these two seasons,” Harms said. Shotgun one is Dec. 3-7; shotgun two is Dec. 10-18.
While seasonal weather is finally arriving, the mild, dry fall has benefited hunters in the earlier deer seasons.
“Hunters have reported harvesting more than 23,000 deer so far, which is about 8 percent higher than last year, so we’re on track to harvest more than 100,000 deer statewide again this year,” Harms said.
Last year, hunters reported harvesting nearly 103,000 deer, down from 109,600 in 2020. The Iowa DNR has a goal to manage the herd to provide an annual harvest of 100,000-120,000 deer. A key piece to the population management plan is harvesting antlerless deer.
“We encourage folks in counties where antlerless licenses are available to use them to help us to effectively manage the deer herd,” Harms said. The Iowa DNR has a listing of counties with antlerless licenses in real-time. To check the number of licenses in each county, visit www.iowadnr.gov, then click on the “available tags, quota information” tab on the hunting page and select “Resident Antlerless Deer by County” in the drop-down box.
New this year is the Excess Tag January Antlerless Season. Any county with unsold county specific antlerless licenses on Jan. 11, is eligible for this season.
“This is an opportunity to harvest late season deer, but this new season has a limited method of take – only centerfire rifles from .223 to .500 caliber may be used,” said Harms.
Counties that typically have unsold licenses at the end of the season in the past were those with higher quotas, in the southern and northeastern parts of the state.
“We also have the Population Management January Antlerless-only Season to manage the herd in localized areas. This season will be available in Allamakee, Appanoose, Decatur, Monroe, Wayne and Winneshiek if the county has more than 100 antlerless tags available on Dec. 19,” Harms said. “Although this season is only available in those six counties, it allows all legal methods of take, in addition to the .223 to .500 centerfire rifles.”
The Population Management January Antlerless-only Season is in select counties where chronic wasting disease has been confirmed. The season, if open, will be Jan. 11-22, 2023.
Deer donation program
The Iowa Deer Exchange is in its third year of connecting participants willing to provide deer meat with those willing to accept it. Heading in to the shotgun deer hunting seasons, the Iowa DNR is encouraging Iowans to sign up for the program.
Participants who signed up previously are encouraged to review their profile to make sure they are still considered active and the offer good until date hasn’t passed.
“We’re encouraging hunters who are making their plans now to consider picking up another doe tag and registering with the deer exchange to donate venison,” said Harms.
To sign up for the Iowa Deer Exchange, go to www.iowadnr.gov/deer then scroll down to Iowa’s Deer Exchange Program link and fill out the required fields. The database creates a map and table with information deer donors and deer recipients can use to get connected. There is no cost to participate. It is illegal to sell wild fish and game in Iowa.
The deer exchange, along with the Help us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program, allows hunters an opportunity to provide high quality lean protein to their neighbors, while continuing to do what they enjoy – hunting deer.
Hunter who prefer to use the HUSH program are encouraged to contact a participating locker before they harvest a deer to see if the locker has any additional drop off instructions. The list of participating lockers is available at www.iowadnr.gov/deer the scroll down to the Help Us Stop Hunger link. The HUSH program is a partnership between the Iowa DNR, the Food Bank of Iowa and participating meat lockers.
Online hunting atlas
Hunters have an online tool that may improve their in-field experience, even before opening day.
The Iowa hunting atlas is an interactive map that shows all available public hunting land that is managed by the state, county or federal governments. The atlas is online at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting. A mobile version is also available.
A click on an area will show basic information like size, habitat type and likely species available.
Report your harvest
Hunters who harvest a deer are required to report their harvest by midnight on the day after it is tagged or before taking it to a locker or taxidermist. The hunter whose name is on the transportation tag is responsible for making the report. If no deer is harvested, no report is necessary.
Options to report your harvest include texting the registration number on your deer tag to 1-800-771-4692 and follow the prompts, online, by phone, through a license vendor during normal business hours, or using the Go Outdoors Iowa app. Reporting using the app is straight forward, fast and easy. Hunters have their confirmation right on their phone and also receive it as an email.
Deer harvest numbers are an important component of Iowa’s deer management plan.
Changes to deer seasons
Population Management January Antlerless Season will be available in Allamakee, Winneshiek, Decatur, Appanoose, Monroe and Wayne counties if the number of unsold antlerless licenses on the third Monday in December exceeds 100. Licenses will be available the same day the season is reinstated. Only antlerless deer may be taken during the Population Management January Antlerless-only season. Hunting is allowed on public land, and private land with permission. Shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders, bows, crossbows and center-fire rifles .223 caliber to .500 caliber with a published or calculated muzzle energy of 500-foot pounds or higher may be used.
Excess Tag January Antlerless Season will be available in all counties with unsold county antlerless tags on Jan. 10. Licenses will be available beginning Jan. 11, until quotas are filled. Due to the compressed timeline, these licenses will not be available online. Only antlerless deer may be taken during the Excess Tag January Antlerless-only season. Only centerfire rifles .223 caliber to .500 caliber with a published or calculated muzzle energy of 500-foot pounds or higher are allowed in the Excess Tag January antlerless season.
Antlerless quotas have changed in 17 counties, see p. 8 in the Iowa Hunting, Trapping and Migratory Game Bird Regulations for current quotas.