Deer hunters are trading in their bows for shotguns and body harnesses for blaze orange vests as the calendar turns to December and the first of Iowa’s three main gun seasons begin. And based on reports, it looks like hunting will be good, if the weather cooperates.
“Our deer population is similar to last year and they are definitely moving right now,” said Tyler Harms, wildlife biometrician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “The recent colder weather and rut activity have things looking positive for our shotgun seasons.”
First shotgun season is Dec. 1-5, followed by second shotgun season Dec. 8-16. Late muzzleloader season is Dec. 17-Jan. 10, which it shares with the reopening of the bow season.
The bulk of the deer harvest, and hunter participation, occurs during the shotgun seasons. The Iowa DNR expects about 60,000 hunters in each shotgun season, plus 30,000 in the late muzzleloader season. The traditional technique in shotgun season is to drive and post where some members of the group post the end of the timber, while other walk through driving deer towards them.
With all that activity in the timber, Harms advised hunters to keep safety at the top of their hunting plan. The hunting plan identifies where each hunter will be and how the hunt will unfold. The plan should also include checking the blaze orange and replace any that has faded over time. Hunters are required to wear one article of external solid blaze orange clothing: vest, jacket, coat, sweatshirt, sweater, short or coveralls. An orange hat alone doesn’t suffice.
“You want to be seen by other hunters so it would be a good idea to wear more than the minimum amount of blaze orange required,” Harms said.
Hunters will notice few regulations changes from 2017. The DNR has added a January antlerless season in four counties and new deer management zones near Harpers Ferry, Elkader and Seymour. Unfilled youth deer licenses are now valid for any remaining seasons, but are still mentor licenses and they must follow all other rules specified for each season.
Iowa’s overall deer harvest across all seasons last year was 105,578 and the 2018 harvest should be similar.