First Iowa shotgun deer season opens Dec. 4
The first of Iowa’s two shotgun deer seasons begins Dec. 4, when an expected 55,000 to 60,000 blaze orange clad hunters head to the timber for the annual late fall tradition.
The good news is that Iowa’s deer population is similar to last year statewide, and is continuing its slow upward trend in northcentral and northwest Iowa that has been a goal of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since 2014.
“We’ve been relaxing the regulations on deer in northwest and northcentral Iowa for the past couple of years to allow hunters more opportunities since that population has recovered,” said Tyler Harms, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR.
The DNR has removed the buck-only harvest restriction during the first shotgun season in a handful of counties in northcentral Iowa, but left it in place for 17 counties in northwest Iowa.
The DNR manages Iowa’s deer population to provide a harvest of between 100,000 and 120,000 deer annually. Harms said they are expecting the harvest to be similar to last year when Iowans reported harvesting more than 109,500 deer, and given the advanced state of the harvest, everything is setting up nicely.
In 2019, hunters harvested around 95,000 deer, down from 108,000 in 2018.
Before hunters head to the timber, it’s important that everyone go through their gear to make sure everything still fits and still works and takes time to review their hunting safety plan.
“Hunting continues to be a safe activity enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Iowans, which is why hunting injuries make the news - because they’re so uncommon,” said Matt Burner, district supervisor with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Bureau for north central Iowa. “And part of making hunting safe is creating a plan for each hunt.”
The hunting plan identifies the hunt location, who’s on the hunt and outlines their role, describes how the hunt will unfold and when the hunters are expected to return home. Hunters are encouraged to leave a copy of the plan with someone or somewhere easy to find, in the event of an emergency.
Hunters will also want to check their blaze orange gear to make sure it still fits and that that orange hasn’t faded to the point of being ineffective.
The minimum amount of blaze orange required by Iowa law to hunt in the firearm deer season is a 100 percent solid blaze orange vest, but Bruner said they encourage hunters to wear blaze orange hats and gloves, too.
“Wear plenty of visible blaze orange,” he said. “The more external blaze orange that’s worn, the better the chance that hunters will be seen in the timber. We’re not hiding from deer during the firearm seasons; we want to be seen by the other hunters.”
He also reminded hunters to not only properly identify the target before shooting, but also what is behind the target and to avoid shooting at running deer. It’s also a good idea to talk to the landowner or tenant to confirm permission to hunt and to see if anyone else has permission to hunt the same property.
Before setting foot in the timber on opening morning, Bruner advised hunters to spend some time sighting in their firearm to get reacquainted with its accuracy and the range that the bullets and slugs can travel, to treat every gun as if it were loaded and to always point the gun in a safe direction.
“Remember that we hunt with those who we’re closest to, our family and our friends. If there’s any question about taking a shot, don’t pull the trigger, because once you pull the trigger, you can’t call the shot back,” he said. “No deer is worth taking an unsafe shot; another deer will come along. At the end of the day, we all want to get home safely.”