Iowa’s shotgun deer season is still a few weeks away leaving time for hunters to contact landowners, sight in shotguns and tend to all the details before getting out and enjoying Iowa’s outdoors with friends and family.
Expect about 75,000 hunters across Iowa in the first shotgun season, December 5-9, and then another 50,000 head out December 12-20, during the second gun season. Each contingent will also pack along thousands of antlerless tags, to extend their prospects.
If you are a fan of cold weather…and have a muzzleloader, that December 21-January 10 late season attracts hunters holding about 30,000 tags. That number likely will drop, though, with fewer snapping up county antlerless tags.
Iowa’s shotgun seasons allow for group drives; drivers pushing deer toward blockers. Anyone in the group may tag a downed deer—with their own tag. That stands in contrast to other states—and even Iowa’s more solitary muzzleloader and bow seasons. However, it has proven to be an efficient method for taking deer, since modern deer hunting was introduced here in the early 1950s. Whatever the season, any deer must be tagged before it is moved or within 15 minutes—whichever comes first.
It also holds the potential for danger, as drivers move closer to, or across, their friends on a drive.
“That’s why wearing solid blaze orange is mandatory. At least the minimum (torso covered). More is better,” stresses DNR recreation safety officer Pat Jorgensen. “Our number one cause of deer hunting incidents involves a hunter shooting at a running deer…with someone in the area. Recognize what stands in front of and behind the target!”
For several years now, deer hunters have noticed fewer whitetails than in the early 2000s. That is by design. A decade ago, state lawmakers instructed the DNR to reduce the deer population, after steady growth through the previous few decades.
With addition of county and season specific antlerless tags, generous quotas, and a couple extra seasons, near Thanksgiving and during January, hunters responded. Adaptive regulation changes have lowered the deer herd to mid-1990s target levels, in all but a handful of counties.
Hunters in 27 north central and northwest counties have no county antlerless tags…and may take only antlered deer during the first shotgun season.
Iowa’s overall deer harvest across all seasons last year was 101,569…down 39 percent from the peak and the 2015 harvest should be similar.
“Now is a good time for the DNR to work with hunters and landowners to help develop a better understanding of proper deer management; including the benefits of harvesting does and keeping deer numbers at ecologically acceptable levels,” stresses DNR wildlife management biologist Terry Haindfield. “Hunters working with landowners at the local level are the best and most efficient way to keep deer numbers acceptable and provide a high quality deer herd.”