The first of Iowa’s two shotgun deer seasons begins Dec. 4, when an expected 55-60,000 blaze orange clad hunters head to the timber for the annual late fall tradition.
The good news is that Iowa’s deer population is similar to last year statewide, and is continuing its slow upward trend in northcentral and northwest Iowa that has been a goal of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since 2014.
“We’ve been relaxing the regulations on deer in northwest and northcentral Iowa for the past couple of years to allow hunters more opportunities since that population has recovered,” said Tyler Harms, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR.
The DNR has removed the buck-only harvest restriction during the first shotgun season in a handful of counties in northcentral Iowa, but left it in place for 17 counties in northwest Iowa.
The DNR manages Iowa’s deer population to provide a harvest of between 100,000 and 120,000 deer annually. Harms said they are expecting the harvest to be similar to last year when Iowans reported harvesting more than 109,500 deer, and given the advanced state of the harvest, everything is setting up nicely.
In 2019, hunters harvested around 95,000 deer, down from 108,000 in 2018.
Media Contact: Tyler Harms, Biometrician, Wildlife Bureau, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-777-5378.
Deer donation program
The Iowa Deer Exchange experienced a successful inaugural season last year, registering more than 650 participants who were either willing to provide deer meat or willing to accept it. Heading in to the shotgun deer hunting seasons, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is encouraging Iowans who are interested in receiving venison and hunters willing to provide it to again sign up with the program.
Participants who signed up last year 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.
Text to 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. Simply text the registration number on your deer tag to 1-800-771-4692 and follow the prompts. Hunters are still able to report their harvest online, by phone, 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
- The buck-only restriction during the first shotgun season has been removed in Hamilton, Webster, and Wright counties.
- Blood tracking dogs for wounded deer. A person having a valid hunting license and a valid deer hunting license who has wounded a deer while hunting may use a dog to track and retrieve the wounded deer. The person must maintain physical control of the dog at all times during the search by means of a maximum 50-foot lead attached to the dog’s collar or harness. Additional requirements are in the hunting regulations.
- The January antlerless-deer-only season has been conditionally reinstated in Allamakee, Appanoose, Decatur, Wayne, and Winneshiek counties only if the number of unsold county antlerless-deer-only licenses exceeds 100 on the third Monday in December.
- County antlerless-deer-only license quotas were increased in 16 counties and decreased in nine counties for a net increase of 1,250 licenses statewide.