The final deer hunting season begins Jan. 11, in the 38 counties in southern and western Iowa where antlerless deer licenses are available.
Success during the January antlerless season depends on finding where deer are feeding and upon the weather. Cold weather will spur the deer to feed more heavily, so browse lines and food plots will be attractive. Although hunters may see fewer deer as numbers have declined, the season offers some excellent hunting opportunities.
Party hunting is legal and firearm hunters must wear blaze orange. Shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns, and bows are legal options in all open counties. Centerfire rifles (.24 caliber or larger) are legal in the 21 counties in the southern two tiers of the state.
Last year, 81 percent of the 8,300 deer reported during the January antlerless season were does. To avoid harvesting a shed-antlered buck, hunters should pass up shots at lone deer and wait for deer traveling in groups of does and fawns.
In late December and January, bucks may be found traveling together in bachelor groups of 2-4 animals, but these groups will usually consist of only adult deer. If a small group of adult deer contains even one antlered buck, then the group is typically all bucks. But, if the group contains fawns, it is likely composed of does and fawns. Patience and binoculars are especially useful for identifying the type of deer.
Hunters are encouraged to work with landowners to determine if deer are at desirable levels, and base decisions on how they use the remaining antlerless tags on local herd conditions to avoid over-harvesting deer where they hunt.
Hunters may observe the added effect of this year’s EHD outbreak as areas south of I-80 and in counties bordering the Missouri River had higher incidents of the disease. Counties open during the January antlerless season are within that region.
Hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Beginning Jan. 11, a 2013 hunting license and habitat fee will be required. The January antlerless season closes Jan. 20.
Deer must be reported using the harvest reporting system by midnight the day after the deer is tagged. Hunters’ accurately reporting their harvest is an important component of Iowa’s deer management program and future hunting opportunities.
Hunters may report their harvest at www.iowadnr.gov, by calling 1-800-771-4692 or at any license vendor. For hunters with internet access, reporting the harvest online is the easiest way to register the deer. Hunters preferring to donate their deer may do so through the Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program, which provides needed meat to Iowans through the Food Bank of Iowa. Iowa has one of the largest programs in the nation.