Iowa’s most popular deer hunting season is upon us, with about 100,000 hunters in bright orange gear slated to head to the woods, and wildlife experts are predicting another good year.
“Our deer population is stable to slightly increasing statewide, so hunters should expect similar numbers to last year,” said Tyler Harms of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The two shotgun seasons see the most hunters participating, which also results in a significant deer harvest, all compressed into less than three weeks in December.
“About half of our annual statewide deer harvest occurs during these two seasons,” Harms said. Shotgun One is December 3-7; Shotgun two is December 10-18.
While seasonal weather is finally arriving, the mild, dry fall has benefited hunters in earlier deer seasons.
“Hunters have reported over 23,000 deer so far, which is about 8 percent more than last year, so we’re on track to harvest more than 100,000 deer again nationwide this year,” Harms said.
Last year, hunters reported taking nearly 103,000 deer, up from 109,600 in 2020. The Iowa DNR has a goal of managing the herd to achieve an annual harvest of 100,000 to 120,000 deer. A key element of the population management plan is the hunt for antlerless deer.
“We encourage people in counties where antlerless licenses are available to use them to help us effectively manage the deer herd,” Harms said. The Iowa DNR has a real-time list of counties with antlerless licenses. To check the number of licenses in each county, visit www.iowadnr.gov, then click the Available Tags, Quota Info tab on the hunt page and select Resident Antlerless Deer by County from the drop-down box.
New antlerless season
New this year is the Antlerless Season in January. Any county with unsold county-specific antlerless licenses on January 11 is eligible for that season.
“This is a late season opportunity to harvest deer, but this new season has a limited method of trapping — only centerfire rifles from .223 to .500 caliber may be used,” Harms said.
Counties that historically had unsold licenses at the end of the season were those with higher quotas in the southern and northeastern parts of the state.
“We also have the antlerless January season for population management to manage the flock in localized areas. This season will be available in Allamakee, Appanoose, Decatur, Monroe, Wayne, and Winneshiek when the county has more than 100 antlerless followers available on December 19,” Harms said. “Although this season is only available in those six counties, it allows all legal shooting methods, in addition to the .223 to .500 centerfire rifles.”
The antler-only population management season in January will be held in select counties where chronic wasting disease has been confirmed. The season, if open, will run from January 11th to 22nd, 2023.
Online hunting atlas
Hunters have an online tool that can enhance their on-site experience, even ahead of opening day.
The Iowa Hunting Atlas is an interactive map showing all available public hunting areas administered by state, county, or state governments. The Atlas is online at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting. A mobile version is also available.
Clicking on an area shows basic information such as size, habitat type and likely species available.
Report your harvest
Hunters who take a deer must report their harvest by midnight the day after tagging, or before taking it to a locker or taxidermist. The hunter whose name is on the trailer is responsible for the report. If no game is shot, no report is required.
You can report your harvest by texting the registration number on your deer tag to 1-800-771-4692 and following the instructions, online, by phone, through a licensing provider during normal business hours, or through the Go Outdoors Iowa app, among others. Reporting through the app is straightforward, quick and easy. Hunters have their confirmation directly on their mobile phone and also receive it as an email.
Wild catch numbers are an important part of Iowa’s wildlife management plan.
Changes in deer season
Population Management The January antlerless season will be available in Allamakee, Winneshiek, Decatur, Appanoose, Monroe, and Wayne counties when the number of unsold antlerless licenses exceeds 100 on the third Monday in December. The licenses are available the same day the season resumes. Antler only stags may be caught during the January antler only population management season. Hunting is permitted on public lands and on private lands with permits. Shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders, bows, crossbows, and centerfire rifles from .223 through .500 caliber with a published or calculated muzzle energy of 500 foot-pounds or more may be used.
Surplus Tag January Season without Antlers will be available in all districts with unsold Antlerless tags in the district on January 10th. Licenses are available starting January 11th until quotas are met. Due to the compressed schedule, these licenses are not available online. Only antlerless stags may be caught during January’s antlerless season. Only .223 through .500 caliber centerfire rifles with a published or calculated muzzle energy of 500 foot-pounds or more are permitted during the January antlerless season.
Antler quotas have changed in 17 counties, see page 8 in the Iowa Hunting, Trapping and Migratory Game Bird Regulations for current quotas.