The first of Iowa’s popular shotgun deer seasons runs from Saturday to Dec. 6 when an expected 60,000 hunters head out. That group will be followed by another 60,000 hunters from Dec. 9 to 17 for the second shotgun season.
Fans of cold weather can purchase about 40,000 tags for the Dec. 18 to Jan. 10 late muzzleloader season.
Iowa’s shotgun seasons allow for group drives, where drivers push 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 muzzleloader and bow seasons.
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. The minimum amount covers a hunter’s torso.
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 Iowa Department of Natural Resources 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 of 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 101,397, down more than 30 percent from the 2006 peak, and the 2017 harvest should be similar.
“Hunters working with landowners at the local level is the best and most efficient way to keep deer numbers at acceptable levels and provide a high-quality deer herd,” said Tyler Harms, wildlife research biometrician for the Iowa DNR.
The harvest is not complete until the deer is registered online, over the phone or at a license vendor.
Deer can be registered online at www.iowadnr.gov/deerhuntingor by phone call at 800-771-4692.
The deer should be reported by the hunter whose name is on the tag, and it must come before midnight the day after the deer is tagged.
Hunting safety tips
» Treat every gun as if it is loaded; keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
» Unload the firearm and open the action, especially when crossing obstacles.
» Wear plenty of blaze orange. Hunters want to be seen from all sides in the woods and fields.
» If using a new gun or a gun that has not been used for a while, be sure to practice before the season opens to get reacquainted with it.
» Be sure of the target and what’s behind it.
» Don’t shoot at running deer.
» Discuss the hunting plan with everyone in the group. Outline the role for each person and where they will be throughout the hunt. Communication is critical to ensure everyone knows where each other is at all times.
» Bundle up — keeping your finger off the trigger and muzzle control are important as bulky coats and gloves increase chances of an accidental discharge.
» Most hunting in Iowa is done on private land. Hunters should touch base with the landowner before the season opens to make sure permission to hunt is still granted.
» Bighorn sheep hunting season opens
» Learn to hunt muzzleloader deer, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln
» Bobcat hunting and trapping season opens
» Christmas at the Mansion, Arbor Lodge State Historical Park (SHP), Nebraska City. Also Dec. 8-10, 15-17, 22-23
» Cow elk hunting season, private and public land, until Dec. 31
» Muzzleloader deer hunting season, until Dec. 31
» Christmas in the Woods, Ponca State Park, Ponca. Also. Dec. 9 and 16
» Archery on Fire, Platte River SP, Louisville