We’re still a month out from Iowa’s earliest deer seasons. That doesn’t stop the planning, though, as deer hunters mix and match seasons, their days off and which tags to buy. With a couple significant changes this season, however, many hunters will have to make adjustments.
That scramble begins August 15; the first day residents can purchase deer tags. With a short supply of early muzzleloader licenses (only 7,500 available), they have been snapped up in just a few days over the last six years. Hesitate…and you lost your chance for the October season.
That muzzleloader demand has been driven by December shotgun season hunters opting for both seasons. Since 2006, you could purchase a high demand ‘any deer’ early muzzleloader tag…and still be eligible for an ‘antlerless’ shotgun tag. You still could hunt both seasons and, with shotgun season party hunting, even take a buck if another party member was available to legally tag it.
But that was then.
“Now that Iowa’s deer numbers are back down to the statewide objective; we’re reeling it back in,” explains DNR deer research biologist Tom Litchfield. “Hunters purchasing early season muzzleloader licenses won’t be hunting during the shotgun season, on the antlerless-only tags.”
The other major change is the number of county-specific antlerless tags available. Those quotas grew through the 2000s, with pressure to harvest more does. Hunters did the job across most of the state. Lower antlerless quotas now reflect it.
“Throughout eastern Iowa, the deer herd is down to (targeted) mid to late 1990s levels,” says Litchfield. “The quotas statewide were lowered by approximately 13,000. However, there is still plenty of opportunity and good tag availability.”
Hunters still can purchase one any deer gun season tag and fill in with various combinations, using the 119,000 available antlerless tags for the seasons they are hunting…while they last. Those county quotas, though, may be filled sooner. Iowa’s south central and southeastern two tiers of counties still have strong antlerless allotments. Another option is the various urban, park or special hunt zones.
As always, if you qualify as a landowner/tenant, your options are more flexible. Reduced fee tags are available, across the seasons, on your farm property.
Two lesser changes are elimination of the Thanksgiving weekend antlerless season and reducing the late January a week early.