Iowa Whitetail Deer Hunting

If you’ve ever hunted whitetail deer and thought about going somewhere other than your typical hunting grounds to Hunt Trophy Whitetail Deer, you’ve most likely looked at taking a trip to Iowa.  Iowa conjures up visions of bruisers with double drop tines, old gnarly non-typical warriors, and for many, the chance to take the biggest whitetail of their lives.  Hunting in Iowa for decades meant deer camp and shotgun party hunting.  Drives for deer with multiple walkers and shooters were the standard.  While party hunting still occurs in Iowa, it’s been on the decline.  Party hunting has given way to deer leases, outfitters, and a more commercial environment.  Multiple hunting TV shows and record book deer have taught everyone to “let them go and watch them grow.”  Nowhere does this philosophy make more sense than in the food and mineral-rich territory of Iowa.  Here, a 130” three-and-a-half-year-old can add 20” or more per year and become a giant in a few short years.  

 Iowa Deer Population and Habitat 

The deer herd in the state of Iowa is intensely managed and herd size is very stable, if not growing.  Iowa does not attempt to measure the actual number of deer in the state but the number of roadkills has increased steadily since 1990.  While reported harvests have flattened off since 2006, this may be a result of telephone/internet reporting of harvested animals.  Antlerless permit options change every year by county and typically the quotas are not filled.  Overall deer harvest numbers remain stable at about 160,000 per year since 2004.  

Corn is king in the state of Iowa and what that means to deer hunters is an unlimited source of food.  Soybeans provide protein on top of the corn’s starch and both contribute to growing some of the biggest whitetails in America.  While most people think Iowa is flat, that is only partially true.  From Des Moines to the north and west, there is some truly flat ground.  However, the Missouri River on the west and the Mississippi on the east make for lots of counties that are far from flat.  The “Infertile Crescent” area in south central Iowa has lots of cow/calf operations which means more pasture and timber interspersed with row crops—perfect whitetail habitat.    

Private land deer hunting is the standard in the state of Iowa.  With the exception of some county and state land, the vast majority of ground that suits whitetail hunting is privately held.  With the taking of several world record deer in the state of Iowa in the past decade, access to land to hunt has become almost impossible unless you are good friends with a landowner or know a great outfitter.  

Iowa Opportunity and Deer Seasons 

Iowa is a unique state when it comes to deer management.  The most noticeable difference between Iowa and most other states is that there is no gun hunting during or immediately following the rut.  Whitetail Bow season typically starts the first of October and continues through the middle of January and is closed for the two deer gun seasons.  This is the only option if you want to hunt deer during the rut, and it’s worth sitting in your stand all day long.  1st deer shotgun season usually starts around the 7th of December and runs for 5 days.  After a few days of resting period, the 2nd deer shotgun season picks up about the 14th of December and runs for 9 days.  While the two deer gun seasons have traditionally been shotgun only shooting single projectile slugs, recently straight walled rifles have been legalized.  Certain center-fired rimmed and rimless cartridges are now legal to hunt deer.  Muzzleloader deer season usually starts a few days before Christmas and continues for two weeks.  If there’s snow on the ground and you can find a food source, this is an awesome hunt.  

In order to draw a nonresident Iowa archery deer tag, it will typically take you three preference points.  For non resident gun deer hunters, it really depends on the management zone.  Some zones have >90% draw rates for hunters with points and some have 0% draw rates with zero points.  For 2019, there were a total of 2,099 nonresident deer archery and 3856 non resident deer gun permits issued.   If you want to bow hunt Iowa, start applying for preference points now.  Typically, the 1st of May is the opening of the Iowa draw.  If you want to gun hunt Iowa, take a look at the zones which zone you’d like to hunt and plan a year or two out.  

Compared to neighboring states, Iowa is a harder draw and a more expensive deer hunt.  Draw dates are generally from early May through early June.  Nonresident general deer licenses run $498.00 with antlerless-only deer tags running $266.50.  Preference points are $60.50 plus application fees and can be purchased online or through the telephone ordering system.  Iowa also requires you purchase a Small Game Hunting License ($131) and a Habitat Stamp ($15).  Mandatory check-in of game is required via the internet or phone.  Hunter orange is required during gun seasons.  

Best Places to Hunt Whitetail In Iowa!!

It’s probably easier to talk about where not to hunt deer in Iowa.  The northwest quarter of the state is mostly flat with rich soil and filled with corn and soybeans and not suitable for whitetail hunting.  Southcentral and southeast Iowa probably get the most recognition when it comes to deer hunting the state.  Several TV shows and a certain record shot in Albia has brought a lot of attention to this part of the state.  This area also holds some of the best outfitters in the state as well.  While not as popular, the northeast four counties all hold big bodied bruisers as do a few of the counties in the southwest corner.  For a legitimate shot at a 180”+ whitetail, Iowa is the place!  

If you’re interested in Hunting Trophy Whitetails in Iowa, give us a call and we can help connect you with the best whitetail outfitters in Iowa.