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Iowa Deer Hunting: Apply Now

The words, “Iowa” and “deer hunting” go together like bacon and backstraps.  They were meant to be.  The Hawkeye state has developed a reputation for being one of the best states in the nation to target monster whitetail bucks.  If deer hunting Iowa hasn’t made its way on your bucket list, now is the time to start putting in for the coveted Iowa non-resident deer tag and at least start building preference points to make Iowa Deer Season a future vacation.

big buck

Why Apply for an Iowa Deer Tag?

Iowa is legendary for the quality of its deer herd.  The high-level management guidelines the Iowa DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources)  has in place is what makes the state a consistent producer of some of the largest bucks in the country.  

The success of the state starts at a local level with the amount of effort and research Iowa’s DNR, landowners and hunters exert to optimize the overall herd health and hunting experience.

The entire state is broken down into 16 Wildlife Management Units (WMU).  Each WMU consists of about six or so counties. 

According to Tyler Harms, wildlife biometrician and deer program leader for the Iowa DNR, “We have proven systems in place to maximize Iowa’s deer herd quality in each WMU and each county within the WMUs.”  There are some things out of the control of any wildlife agency or landowner, such as CWD and EHD.  However, the Iowa DNR has the ability to react to those unknown variables and put steps in place to optimize the herd health and quality, if unfortunate circumstances occur.

Harms explained, “Our first step in maximizing the state’s herd quality is to analyze the population trend in a specific unit or county. We consider where the estimated population is with respect to that county’s or WMU’s goals.”  If the population is above goal level, the state may issue more doe tags for that specific area.  On the contrary, if the population is below goal level, then fewer doe tags may be issued, allowing the herd health and population to rebuild.

Harms added, “This approach not only benefits hunters and their experience, it helps protect the deer from spreading diseases if and when they exist in a specific area and maintain a deer population that is consistent with interests of all citizens."

There is much more to Iowa’s proven management plan than that.  To learn much more about what makes Iowa “Iowa” for deer hunting, check out the Iowa DNR Roundtable with Drury Outdoors here.

When asked about what Iowa’s top priorities are with its deer management program, Harms replied, “I would have to say maintaining an ample amount of mature bucks and an overall healthy buck-to-doe ratio.”  

Harms added, “We also want to have a deer population that’s healthy for our various stakeholders in the state. Iowa is a heavily agricultural state and too many deer can, at times, cause some issues for agricultural producers. So, we want to make sure that there are enough deer out there for our wildlife watchers and hunters to have a quality experience without having too many deer to cause issues for agricultural producers and people that are driving on our roadways. In a nutshell, I would say our overall goal is to have a deer population that meets the needs of all of our stakeholders. And then, beyond that, we want our current and future hunters to have a quality experience.

How to Draw a Non-resident Iowa Deer Hunting Tag

Iowa’s deer hunting license is available for non-residents through an application draw, which closes on June 7, 2020.  The license can be applied for at  Non-residents will have to make select which zone they want to hunt out of the 10 deer hunting zones the state has in place.

Iowa Deer Hunting Zones Map
Photo courtesy of the Iowa DNR (Click for PDF)

Iowa Deer Season Dates

Iowa’s archery season opens on October 1 every year.  First Shotgun Season always opens on the first Saturday of December and Second Shotgun Season always opens on the second Saturday in December.  There is also Late Muzzleloader Season as well.  As a non-resident, you can only apply for either the Archery, First Shotgun, Second Shotgun, or Late-Season Muzzleloader tags.  For more information on Iowa’s hunting seasons and dates, visit

Iowa Public Land Deer Hunting

Iowa DNR offers over 375,000 acres of public land to deer hunt on across the state.  Most of the work has been done for you to figure out what your options are

with the interactive map the Iowa DNR has created for public use.  In addition to that resource, all hunters will benefit greatly from purchasing a membership to the OnX Maps (Get 20% Off Here) and Hunt Stand apps.

Iowa Public Land Deer Hunting
Iowa's interactive public land map makes it easy to hone in on a great spot! (Click to use map)


General Information to Know About Iowa's Deer Hunting Program

When you put in for the tag and you don’t draw, you earn a preference point, which is put toward your application the following year, earning your preference over those with fewer points than you.  Once you do draw the coveted Non-resident Iowa deer tag, make sure to study the state’s wildlife code and pay extra close attention to things like its blaze orange requirements.  Be extra safe when hunting out of treestands.  Also, support hungry Iowans in need through Iowa’s incredible HUSH program. Last year, the donation of 3000 deer led to the consumption of 600,000 meals for those in need.  Finally, research the CWD guidelines for Iowa and any states you would be traveling through and to if you take meat, antlers, etc.

Please help protect the state’s precious natural resource and report any suspicious or potential poaching activity.  For more information on Iowa’s Turn In Poachers (TIP) program, visit

If you haven’t put in for your Non-Resident Iowa Deer tag yet, APPLY HERE.

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