Deer Hunting in Iowa

The return of the white-tailed deer as a major game species in Iowa is a tribute to good landowner attitude and progressive management, research and enforcement programs. Likewise, responsibility for the future of deer in Iowa depends upon the cooperation of hunters and landowners, preservation of critical timber habitat, legislative support and continued professional management of the resource.

General Deer Information
A Review of Iowa's Deer Management Program


Iowa's Hunting Regulations

Like other states in the midwest Iowa produces some outstanding white-tailed deer. Abundant food and mild winter weather make it possible for Iowa's whitetails to become large in body weight and, if allowed to grow to maturity, often possess impressive antlers. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains a record book of the largest antlered deer harvested in the state with firearms and archery equipment. Those who successfully harvest a deer in Iowa with trophy-sized antlers are encouraged to enter the rack in Iowa's big game registry. Award certificates will be issued by the DNR to eligible entries that meet minimum standards (shown below). In order to qualify for an award, the rack must be measured by an official measurer. You can search for an official measure in Iowa by searching those certified through the Boone and Crockett Club) or the Pope and Young Club.

There is no charge for measuring or submitting entries for the Iowa record book. Because of shrinkage in varying degrees, the rack must be air dried for at least 60 days following the date of kill before it can be officially measured. There is no time limit concerning how long ago the deer was killed for measurement purposes or for entry into the Iowa records.  The scoring system used for Iowa records is identical to that used by the Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young Clubs, but the minimum qualifying scores differ from these national clubs. Iowa award certificates will be presented in ten classes. The classes with minimum scores for each are as follows:

Weapon Typical Non-Typical
Shotgun Kill 150 170
Muzzleloader Kill 150 170
Archery Kill 135 155
Handgun Kill 150 170
Crossbow Kill 135 155

Deer taken under a kill permit for depredation purposes will not qualify for this program. Deer hunters who want to have their trophy rack officially measured should call one of the official Iowa measurers listed above to set up an appointment to have the rack measured. If the rack meets the minimum scores listed above the measurement form should be sent to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, ATTN: Deer Records, Wallace State Office Building, 502 East 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319.

List of Iowa Trophy Deer, 2019

Bucks Recorded in the Iowa Big Game Records between 1953 and 1998 

HUSH is a cooperative effort among Iowa deer hunters, the Food Bank of Iowa, meat processors and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

HUSH has two main goals:

  1. Help reduce the Iowa deer population
  2. Provide high-quality protein to needy Iowa citizens.

Thank you to all of the hunters who donated deer to the HUSH program during the 2020 hunting season. 3,148 deer were donated, generating nearly 530,000 meals to Iowa's less fortunate!

Whether you're a deer hunter, a locker owner or volunteer in your community, there is a vital role you can play. As a hunter, consider buying extra antlerless-only deer permits to help reduce the deer population. By participating in HUSH, hunters can continue to hunt after they would normally stop and thus help reduce the deer population and provide high-quality venison for the needy in Iowa. You can donate any legally taken deer in Iowa, of any sex from any season. For the avid deer hunter in Iowa this presents itself as the perfect opportunity to hunt longer and have a direct impact in a local community. Hunters must be properly licensed to hunt deer. All deer licenses include a $1 per deer surcharge to fund the HUSH program. Participating lockers skin, bone and grind the meat into two-pound packages of pure venison. Local social service agencies distribute the venison to needy Iowa families in the area. The 35 lockers that participated in 2020 received $75 for each processed deer. Find a locker near you:

The Iowa DNR partners with the Food Bank of Iowa and their affiliates throughout the state to make sure the venison is distributed to qualified Iowans. The Food Bank of Iowa receives $5 administrative cost for each deer distributed.

  • All deer hunters must have a deer permit to harvest deer, whether or not they donate the deer to HUSH. Donated deer must be tagged before being transported, just as any other harvested deer.
  • Any legally-taken, wild Iowa deer from any season and any sex may be donated at any one of the lockers shown on the HUSH Locker List map.
  • Hunters must donate the whole deer.
  • Deer must be field dressed; lockers prefer a clean carcass without mud on the hide.
  • Lockers also prefer the carcass not be frozen.
  • Deer hunters must fill out a Hunter HUSH Card at the locker for each deer being donated.
  • HUSH does not accept road killed deer.
  • Lockers cannot require hunters to skin or bone HUSH deer.
  • There is no additional fee to be paid at the locker.

If you have any questions, please email Stephanie.Lawrence@dnr.iowa.gov or call (515) 725-8265. Additional Information:

The Iowa Deer Exchange Program is a free online database where deer hunters willing to provide venison can connect with Iowans who want venison.

Hunters and those wanting to receive venison enter their contact information to the database and provide their location on a map. The location information will help you to connect with other program participants in your area.

Recipients choose the condition they want the meat when they register – boned out, field dressed, quartered, frozen, jerky /sausage or any, and in what amount. They also set the length of time their offer is open and may opt out at any time by contacting the Iowa DNR.

Once connected, the parties work out the details of the transfer. Donors are responsible for reporting the harvest and encouraged to properly care for the deer from the field to the recipient.

It is illegal to sell venison in Iowa.


For assistance with a previously submitted registration, please email deerexchange@dnr.iowa.gov

Drury Outdoors, Iowa DNR Roundtable Mark and Terry with (www.druryoutdoors.com) sit down with the heads of the Iowa DNR and discuss whitetail hunting and Quality Deer Management.  

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Drury Outdoors, Part 1 of 8: Intro, North American Model (13:54)

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Drury Outdoors, Part 2 of 8: Deer Management Program (13:09)

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Drury Outdoors, Part 3 of 8: Deer Management Program (14:07)

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Drury Outdoors, Part 4 of 8: Party Hunting (14:12)

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Drury Outdoors, Part 5 of 8: Party Hunting, Poaching (12:56)

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Drury Outdoors, Part 6 of 8: CWD, Baiting, Feeding (13:04)

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Drury Outdoors, Part 7 of 8: Baiting and Feeding (13:38)

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Drury Outdoors, Part 8 of 8: Quota for Non-Resident Deer (12:17)
Deer Hunting Season Dates
deer

We work hard to keep our calendar current, but always refer to the hunting regulation booklet for official, legal season dates.


2021 Seasons Season Dates License On-Sale Dates
Youth Season Sept 18 - Oct 3 Aug 15 - End of Season
Disabled Hunter Season (Requires permit, Regulations, p. 41) Sept 18 - Oct 3 Aug 15 - End of Season
Archery Season, Early Split Oct 1 - Dec 3 Aug 15 - End of Season
Archery Season, Late Split Dec 20 - Jan 10, 2022 Aug 15 - End of Season
Early Muzzleloader (residents only) Oct 16 - 24 Aug 15 - End of Season (until quota is reached)
Late Muzzleloader Dec 20 - Jan 10, 2022 Aug 15 - End of Season
Shotgun, Season 1 Dec 4 - 8 Aug 15 - End of Season
Shotgun, Season 2 Dec 11 - 19 Aug 15 - End of Season
Nonresident Holiday Season Dec 24 - Jan 2, 2022 Aug 15 - End of Season (until quota is reached)

Shooting hours for all deer seasons are half-hour before sunrise to half-hour after sunset.

Find out more regarding Deer Disease Monitoring and the CWD Reporting System.

Nonresidents: The nonresident deer application period is the first Saturday in May through the first Sunday in June. The application is available in December.


No, there is not a maximum round count for rifle or shotgun magazines for deer hunting in Iowa.


Legal firearms for the youth/disabled and shotgun 1 and 2 seasons include:

  • Pistols and revolvers (with a minimum barrel length of 4 inches)
  • Straight-wall and "necked-down" cartridge rifles shooting an expanding type bullet of at least .350 inches and no greater than .500 inches with at least 500 foot pounds of muzzle energy.

This includes, but is not limited to, the following common calibers: .35 Whelen, .350 Legend, .358 Winchester, .375 Winchester, .40 S&W, .44 Magnum, .444 Marlin, .45 Long Colt, .45 Raptor, .450 Bushmaster, .450 Marlin, .45-70 Govt, .460 S&W and .500 S&W.

If you’re not sure if your cartridge is allowed, please check with your local DNR conservation officer.


Everything that was legal in 2020 is also legal in 2021. In addition, new regulations expanded what is legal for deer hunting. Hunters are no longer limited to using straight-walled cartridge rifles.

Any changes to allowable cartridges and firearms for hunting would take a change in Iowa law through the Iowa Legislature. The DNR is not aware of any proposed changes at this time.

The caliber, or bullet diameter, is typically printed on the ammunition box and packaging.

No it's not. We have tried to include common ones in the limited space we have in the regulations, but there are many less popular cartridges not shown on the list. The most important criteria is that it's at least .350 inches, but no greater than .500 inches. If you’re not sure if your cartridge is allowed, please check with your local DNR conservation officer.

Both the .350 and .500 are legal. If it's .349 or less or .501 or more, it's not legal.

It’s legal to use a revolver for deer hunting if the barrel is at least 4 inches long.

The .350 Legend is legal for deer hunting in Iowa.

All of them, as long as they have a bullet diameter between 0.350 inches and 0.500 inches.

If you need additional clarification or have other questions, we'd encourage you to call your local DNR conservation officer, who would be happy to chat about this. You can find contact information at iowadnr.gov/officers.