Deer Hunting in Iowa

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  • B
  • 350,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 340,000

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $70

    A resident hunting license is $22. A deer permit is $33. There is a $15 habitat fee.

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $492.50 (plus preference points)

    A non-resident hunting license and habitat fee is $144. A non-resident buck tag is $348.50. Preference points are $60.50.

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 202"

    Taken by David Brenigar in Wapello County, Iowa, in 1969.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 778

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 307 5/8"

    Taken by Tony Lovstuen in Monroe County in 2003. Ranks No. 5 of all time.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 576

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Midwest Whitetail's Mike Reed shows off his 201 5/8-inch buck. (Midwest Whitetail photo)

Season Dates (2020):

Bow season spans October 1 to December 4. It reopens December 21 to January 10. Gun season runs December 5 to 9 and December 12 to 20. Early muzzleloader season is October 17 to 25. Late muzzleloader season is December 21 to January 10. Youth season is September 19 to October 4. Disabled hunter season is September 16 to October 4. Please check the Iowa DNR website to confirm.

The Grade: B

Iowa’s deer hunting is really good. We aren’t simply grading the quantity of big deer, though. Antler Nation takes into account all aspects, including expensive tags, steep preference points, and the fact it takes most non-residents three to four years to draw.

Unfortunately, Iowa is all too familiar with disease. Four counties were added to the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Zone. As a result, hunters can obtain additional antlerless licenses in these areas. On top of that, the state has dealt with epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) numerous times in the past decade. Southern counties were hit hard in 2019, and there are already reports of potential cases again this year.

On the upside, the Hawkeye State is still considered the land of opportunity for those aspiring to put a big one on the wall. It’s a magical place. It also has the ever-popular Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program, which is one of the most notable venison donation programs in the nation. Plus, gun hunters are now able to use straight-wall cartridges during the gun seasons. Overall, hunters still enjoy a lot of good things here.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

Unlike many places, odds of tagging a really good deer are enjoyed throughout the state. But there are two obvious hotbeds: southern and eastern Iowa. Southern counties such as Appanoose, Marion, Monroe, Van Buren and Warren have solid reputations. Unfortunately, these are also some of the areas hit hardest by recent bouts with EHD. In the eastern region, Allamakee, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson, Jones, Linn, and Winneshiek counties crank out a lot of deer. Don’t overlook other Iowa counties, though. Just because they don’t rank as well doesn’t mean they don’t produce. Looking at Iowa, practically the entire state lights up with record-book entries.

Examining public ground, the Iowa DNR website reveals it's evenly distributed throughout the state. There are no concentrated pockets. State forests comprise the largest percentage of opportunities. However, there are additional options, including Army Corps of Engineers, Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and some federal ground.

Also, don’t overlook the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP). It offers more than 20,000 acres of private land that’s open to all hunters. Many of these are smaller tracts of land, but still harbor good hunting opportunities. The key is to hunt these as soon as they enter the program. Once people learn of them, hunting pressure quickly follows.

The Iowa DNR also makes planning easy, and does a great job tracking the deer harvest and offering detailed information to the public. Use its online databases to observe historical and real-time harvest reports, as well as quota limits for specific areas. Use all of these tools to help plan your next out-of-state Iowa deer hunt.

Iowa Harvests

  • Eric Hodina

    Brooklyn, Iowa

  • Eric Hodina

    Brooklyn, Iowa

From the Realtree Trophy Den