Deer Hunting In Iowa: Top Tips, Hot Spots, and Regulations

RV Lifestyle


Hunting deer is a popular pastime activity in Iowa. The state is considered one of the best areas for deer hunting because of its vast acres of public land. However, game hunting has several regulations and restrictions that can confuse avid huntsmen. Failure to follow statewide rules can result in fines and revocation of your permit. 

If you’ve wanted to try your luck at deer hunting in Iowa, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn everything you need to understand about deer hunting in Iowa, including permits, regulations, and the best spots. 

Deer Hunting Regulations in Iowa

The regulations for hunting deer in Iowa vary and span several areas. For example, there are rules regarding the types of weapons allowed and the types of permits needed. There are also regulations on the type of clothing required to hunt game. Let’s examine some of the laws in-depth:

Hunting season

The deer hunting season in Iowa varies. Here is what you need to know: Youth season usually begins in late September before ending in early October. The same dates apply for disabled hunter season. Early muzzleloader only lasts for about a week, starting on October 15th and ending on the 23rd. Finally, you can expect the late muzzleloader season to last from late December until early January.    

Permits Required

If you are an Iowa resident aged 16 and older, you are required to obtain a resident hunting license. In addition to acquiring a license, hunters must also pay a habitat fee for hunting deer and turkeys. The same regulation applies to non-residents who plan to hunt within state boundaries. For youth participants, requirements vary depending on whether they are Iowa residents. 

Non-resident youth must pay a habitat fee and have a youth license. Unsurprisingly, they must also be accompanied by a licensed hunter who is 18 or older. 

Weapons allowed

What about weapons? The state of Iowa permits several methods for deer hunting. The list includes crossbows, certain handguns, rifles, and muzzleloaders. Keep in mind that each permissible weapon has restrictions. For archery, your arrowhead must not contain an explosive tip. Youth hunters (16 and younger) are prohibited from using handguns for hunting. 

Deer Tagging

After harvesting a deer, hunters must tag their game. The purpose is to provide hunters with an accurate way of reporting their catch. The paper consists of a 2-piece tag that contains a harvest and a transportation tag. Remember, it is unlawful to use a tag on a deer that was purchased after the deer was harvested.

Harvest reporting 

In addition to tagging their game with the proper documentation, Iowa hunters must also report their harvest to the Department of Natural Resources after tagging them. The hunter whose name is on the transportation tag is responsible for reporting a catch. When it comes to deer, you must determine the sex of your deer and the county where the animal was harvested.  

Best Locations for Iowa Deer Hunting

Now that we’ve covered vital information regarding Iowa hunting laws and regulations, it is time to discuss hot spots for catching some game. Below are some recommendations for deer hunting in Iowa: 

Hickory Bend

Located near the city of West Burlington, Hickory Bend Conservation Area represents one of the most remote areas in its county. With approximately 244 acres at your disposal, it is common to find deer near mature oaks and hickory trees.

Big Hollow Recreation Area

Considered Des Moines County’s “premiere outdoor recreation destination,” Big Hollow Recreation Area offers a diverse habitat suitable for various species. Hunters can catch deer and turkeys. Best of all, there is an extensive trail system that takes hunters far from crowded areas and main roads.  

Odessa Wildlife Complex

Consisting of more than 6,000 acres, the Odessa Wildlife Complex is a prime spot for public hunting and wildlife. While much of the area is accessible by boat only, there are walkable areas at the south end of the complex where you can encounter deer, squirrels, and turkeys. 

Sedan Bottoms

Located in Appanoose County, Sedan Bottoms consists of wetlands, bottomland timber, and grasslands that support a diverse wildlife habitat. You can find snakes, birds, deer, and turkeys in this area. Do note that Sedan Bottoms is a walk-in hunting area only. This means you will have to carry all your equipment with you.

Catch Game With Cruise America

Deer hunting in Iowa is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Boondocking while catching some game on your trip is another layer of excitement. With Cruise America, you can turn that opportunity into a reality. Select one of our customized RV rentals, and provide yourself with all the home-style essentials you need to embark on a dry camping adventure, including 4kw generators and large water heaters. 

Do you want to know the best part? No more unnecessary camping fees! Contact us to explore your options.