Predators & Small Game
There's no doubt Iowa is a top whitetail state. But its tag prices and availability hurt its grade.
Season Dates: Bow season opens Oct. 1 and runs until Nov. 30. It reopens from Dec. 17-Jan. 10. Shotgun season is offered in two segments: Dec. 1-5 and Dec. 8-16. Muzzleloader season runs Dec. 17-Jan. 10. There's also an early muzzleloader season Oct. 13-21.
The Grade: The howls of pain from Illinois receiving a B (and nearly a C) are still ringing from the treetops. We suspect Iowa's grade will begin those howls anew. But the facts are pretty simple here. The Antler Nation grading system attempts to break down the nation from the perspective of an every-day deer hunter. We are looking for places that have good populations of deer, tags we can afford and obtain on a fairly regular basis and, of course, a place to hunt.
Iowa is undoubtedly one of the top producers of trophy-class whitetails. It has an outstanding deer herd with terrific genetics and habitat, along with a human population and hunting regulations that allow bucks to reach maturity.
It's also among the most expensive states for non-resident licenses and one of the most difficult -- if not the most difficult -- states in which to draw a non-resident tag, particularly for bowhunters. And when you do get that tag, you won't find much public land available. There is some and it can be really good. But there's simply not much of it. Iowa ranks 49th out of all 50 states in terms of public land ownership.
On the one hand, Iowa's decision to limit the number of tags available is one of the reasons the state is so good. On the other, the system prices out a lot of people who would otherwise enjoy an opportunity to hunt there. A non-resident archery tag in Iowa costs $438. You'll also need a $112 hunting license and you must also buy a $13 habitat stamp. Total cost: $551. To draw a bow tag, however, you'll likely need at least two preference points and, in some units, you'll need three. A preference point costs $50 each year. Which ups the total for that license to as high as $701.
Iowa is worth the three-year wait in a lot of ways. But the price of tags, lack of public lands and the long wait between drawing tags must have an impact on this state's score. And it did -- probably less than it really should have.
Antler Nation Knowledge: Iowa has one of the nation's best venison donation programs. The Help Us Stop Hunger program allows hunters to donate venison that is used to feed families in need throughout Iowa. One dollar of most deer licenses sold goes towards funding the HUSH program.
Realtree’s Rack Report
Record B&C Typical
Taken by Wayne Bills in Hamilton County in 1974. Ranked No. 10 of all time.
Total B&C Typical Entries
Record B&C Non-Typical
Taken by Tony Lovstuen in Monroe County in 2003. Ranks No. 3 of all time.
Total B&C Non-Typical Entries
Est. Whitetail Population
No. Licenses Sold Annually
Deer to Hunter Ratio
Resident license and permit
A resident hunting license is $19 and a deer permit is $28.50 (same price for bow, gun or muzzleloader).
A non-resident hunting license is $112 and an any-deer permit is $446. A $13 habitat fee is also required.