Application Strategy 2023: Iowa deer

How to navigate Iowa's draw system

Dave Barnett

Iowa has long been known as one of the top big deer producing states in the country. Excellent management is found in this state along with the potential for some giant bucks. Most of the hunting in this state will take place on private lands; however, there are public opportunities that exist. Some of the best farms will commonly be leased by large outfitters so keying in on smaller parcels as an individual seeking private permission may be needed. Hunting with an outfitter in this state can be an attractive idea — namely from the standpoint of getting good access to hunting grounds. However, outfitters are commonly booked up for several years at a time so it may be important to plan a hunt sooner, rather than later.

Note: The deadline to apply for Iowa deer is June 4, 2023. Applications can be submitted online via the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Online License & Registration site.


State Information

To learn more about some of the specifics when it comes to hunting in Iowa and participating in the draw as a nonresident be sure to check out this link.

Important dates and information

  • The draw period is open from May 6 to June 4, 2023.

  • Apply online here.

  • Excess licenses(if available) go on sale July 29, 2023.

  • Optional antlerless only tags go on sale July 29, 2023.

  • 6,000 nonresident general deer licenses are available in 2023 (divided among all 10 zones).

  • No more than 35% of each zones’ licenses are for the archery season.


Iowa Deer Fees

When applying for Iowa there are a few things to keep in mind. The state requires all applicants to first purchase a hunting license and a habitat license in order to apply. There are also some fees associated with the application that will affect your refund. Additionally, applicants must front the cost of the deer license before the drawing, receiving a refund if unsuccessful. If unsuccessful, applicants are assessed a mandatory preference point fee that is nonrefundable.

2023 Iowa nonresident deer draw fees and costs

License/item

Hunting license (ages 16 to 18)

Cost

$32

License/item

Hunting license (18 and older)

Cost

$131

License/item

Habitat fee

Cost

$15

License/item

General deer

Cost

$498

License/item

Antlerless only

Cost

$266.50

License/item

Preference point fee

Cost

$60.50

License/item

Cost

Hunting license (ages 16 to 18)

$32

Hunting license (18 and older)

$131

Habitat fee

$15

General deer

$498

Antlerless only

$266.50

Preference point fee

$60.50


The Iowa Deer Draw System

Iowa uses a very straightforward preference point system where licenses are only awarded to the highest point holders. This makes planning when your Iowa hunt will take place that much easier — not to mention coordinating with outfitters, if needed. Nonresidents receive their own quota of licenses and draw odds are generally fairly good — better than what we typically see in the West, anyways.

Iowa nonresident deer license quotas for 2023

Zone

Zone 1

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

90

Max. number of bow licenses

31

Zone

Zone 2

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

90

Max. number of bow licenses

31

Zone

Zone 3

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

560

Max. number of bow licenses

196

Zone

Zone 4

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

1280

Max. number of bow licenses

448

Zone

Zone 5

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

1600

Max. number of bow licenses

560

Zone

Zone 6

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

800

Max. number of bow licenses

280

Zone

Zone 7

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

360

Max. number of bow licenses

126

Zone

Zone 8

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

240

Max. number of bow licenses

84

Zone

Zone 9

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

880

Max. number of bow licenses

308

Zone

Zone 10

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

100

Max. number of bow licenses

35

Zone

General deer quota (total lic. including bow)

Max. number of bow licenses

Zone 1

90

31

Zone 2

90

31

Zone 3

560

196

Zone 4

1280

448

Zone 5

1600

560

Zone 6

800

280

Zone 7

360

126

Zone 8

240

84

Zone 9

880

308

Zone 10

100

35

Group Applications

Iowa does allow applicants to apply for a party for deer. The maximum group application size is 15. All members of the group will be assigned the preference points of the member with the lowest total count of points. If you have six points and I have one and we apply together, then the group goes into the draw with one point.

Preference point only option

Applicants who do not wish to apply, but wish to build a point can do so during the same May 6 to June 4 time period.

Leftover licenses

Any deer licenses leftover from the main draw will be made available to purchase in a first come, first serve manner beginning July 29, 2023.


Iowa Deer Nonresident Draw Odds

As stated earlier, Iowa uses a true preference point system for drawing tags. Higher point holders will receive a tag before someone under them. This makes the draw somewhat discouraging for those who are starting out as the random factor of the draw is gone, but it makes it much easier to fit an Iowa hunt into your overall hunt plan with this point system.

2022 Iowa nonresident deer draw odds — rifle

Zone

Zone 1

Odds

100% at 129% at 0

Zone

Zone 2

Odds

100% at 155% at 0

Zone

Zone 3

Odds

100% at 0(leftover licenses available)

Zone

Zone 4

Odds

100% at 246% at 1

Zone

Zone 5

Odds

100% at 253% at 1

Zone

Zone 6

Odds

100% at 110% at 0

Zone

Zone 7

Odds

100% at 137% at 0

Zone

Zone 8

Odds

100% at 187% at 0

Zone

Zone 9

Odds

100% at 181% at 0

Zone

Zone 10

Odds

100% at 150% at 0

Zone

Odds

Zone 1

100% at 129% at 0

Zone 2

100% at 155% at 0

Zone 3

100% at 0(leftover licenses available)

Zone 4

100% at 246% at 1

Zone 5

100% at 253% at 1

Zone 6

100% at 110% at 0

Zone 7

100% at 137% at 0

Zone 8

100% at 187% at 0

Zone 9

100% at 181% at 0

Zone 10

100% at 150% at 0

2022 Iowa nonresident deer draw odds — archery

Zone

Zone 1

Odds

100% at 2 46% at 1

Zone

Zone 2

Odds

100% at 3 9% at 2

Zone

Zone 3

Odds

100% at 2 28% at 1

Zone

Zone 4

Odds

100% at 5 39% at 4

Zone

Zone 5

Odds

100% at 5 20% at 4

Zone

Zone 6

Odds

100% at 5 34% at 4

Zone

Zone 7

Odds

100% at 3 22% at 2

Zone

Zone 8

Odds

100% at 220% at 1

Zone

Zone 9

Odds

100% at 316% at 2

Zone

Zone 10

Odds

100% at 214% at 1

Zone

Odds

Zone 1

100% at 2 46% at 1

Zone 2

100% at 3 9% at 2

Zone 3

100% at 2 28% at 1

Zone 4

100% at 5 39% at 4

Zone 5

100% at 5 20% at 4

Zone 6

100% at 5 34% at 4

Zone 7

100% at 3 22% at 2

Zone 8

100% at 220% at 1

Zone 9

100% at 316% at 2

Zone 10

100% at 214% at 1

As you may have noticed from above the odds of drawing a rifle tag are generally much better than the archery license counterparts. This is primarily due to Iowa’s restrictive gun laws where essentially only large caliber, slow-moving cartridges are legal.

Here is the legal definition of approved rifles for hunting season per the IDNR:

“Rifles firing straight wall or other centerfire ammunition propelling an expanding type bullet with a maximum diameter of no less than .350 of an inch and no larger than .500 of an inch and with a published or calculated muzzle energy of 500 foot pounds or higher is legal for hunting deer during the youth and disabled hunting season and first and second shotgun seasons.”


2023 Iowa Deer Season Dates

Below you will find a breakdown of the 2023 season dates for Iowa deer

2023 Iowa season dates

Season

Bow

Season dates

Oct. 1 to Dec. 1, 2023Dec. 18 to Jan. 10, 2024

Season

Regular gun 1

Season dates

Dec. 2 to 6, 2023

Season

Regular gun 2

Season dates

Dec. 9 to 17, 2023

Season

Season dates

Bow

Oct. 1 to Dec. 1, 2023Dec. 18 to Jan. 10, 2024

Regular gun 1

Dec. 2 to 6, 2023

Regular gun 2

Dec. 9 to 17, 2023

Mandatory Harvest Reporting

Hunters who harvest a deer or wild turkey must report the harvest to the IDNR by midnight on the day after it is tagged, before taking it to a locker or taxidermist, before processing it for consumption or before transporting it out-of-state, whichever occurs first. The hunter whose name is on the transportation tag is responsible for making the report. If no animal is harvested, no report is necessary. Failure to report or reporting falsely may result in a misdemeanor citation and possible loss of hunting privileges.

Harvests can be reported by:

  • Texting your registration number to 1-800-771-4692 and then following the prompts.

  • Online at www.iowadnr.gov.

  • By phone at the toll-free number printed on the harvest report tag.

  • Through a license vendor during regular business hours.

  • Through the Go Iowa Outdoors App.

The harvest reporting system will issue a confirmation number to the hunter that must be written on the harvest report tag and attached to the leg of the animal. Failure to do so may result in a misdemeanor citation.


Trophy Potential in Iowa

Overall, trophy potential is exceptional in Iowa with the best odds for tagging a true giant of a buck generally found on private lands with management programs. Some great potential hunting is also on public lands and hunters could still have opportunities for exceptional bucks, but opportunities are obviously more limited.

Top Boone & Crockett (B&C) Iowa deer since 2016(typical whitetail deer)

B&C Score

195 5/8”

Hunter

Curtis L. McCarty III

County

Dallas

Year killed

2022

B&C Score

194 1/8”

Hunter

Austin R. Pontler

County

Clarke

Year killed

2016

B&C Score

193 5/8”

Hunter

Austin J. Amstutz

County

Wayne

Year killed

2017

B&C Score

191 6/8”

Hunter

Larry G. Olen

County

Boone

Year killed

2016

B&C Score

190 4/8”

Hunter

John L. Boardman

County

Louisa

Year killed

2016

B&C Score

Hunter

County

Year killed

195 5/8”

Curtis L. McCarty III

Dallas

2022

194 1/8”

Austin R. Pontler

Clarke

2016

193 5/8”

Austin J. Amstutz

Wayne

2017

191 6/8”

Larry G. Olen

Boone

2016

190 4/8”

John L. Boardman

Louisa

2016

Top Boone & Crockett (B&C) Iowa deer since 2016(nontypical whitetail deer)

B&C Score

282 2/8”

Hunter

Deric J. Sleck

County

Fayette

Year killed

2016

B&C Score

268 3/8”

Hunter

Picked up

County

Jefferson

Year killed

2020

B&C Score

245 1/8”

Hunter

Picked up

County

Madison

Year killed

2020

B&C Score

243 1/8”

Hunter

Picked up

County

Mills

Year killed

2017

B&C Score

242 6/8”

Hunter

Nicholaus R. Peterson

County

Dallas

Year killed

2017

B&C Score

Hunter

County

Year killed

282 2/8”

Deric J. Sleck

Fayette

2016

268 3/8”

Picked up

Jefferson

2020

245 1/8”

Picked up

Madison

2020

243 1/8”

Picked up

Mills

2017

242 6/8”

Nicholaus R. Peterson

Dallas

2017

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