Iowa deer hunters will be out and about

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG This weekend is the beginning of Iowa gun deer season #1, which runs from Dec. 2-6. While lots of hunters may have dreams of or expectations of being in the right place at the right time to enable them to take a big buck, the reality is that there is not a big antlered buck behind every bush, tree, or shrubby old fence row. Will there be some nice big antlered bucks falling to hunter's guns? Yes. Will the majority of hunters take bucks of much smaller sized head gear? Yes. Will a lot of doe deer also end up on the butcher block to end up as tasty meat cuts in the family freezer? Yes. Today's image is of a very nice whitetail deer taken by bow and arrow on October 19, 2005, on land that is now the Iowa River Wildlife Area, located just north of Marshalltown along the Sand Road. The archer who arrowed this buck was yours truly, the author of these Outdoors Today stories.

Iowa deer season number one kicks off this weekend for the first of five days for taking deer with firearms. Up to this point, the majority of Iowa deer harvested have been from archers across the Hawkeye state.

In fact, the total reported harvest reports as of mid week was bumping very close to but still a tad under 30,000. This harvest number is right in line with past year archery take-offs.

Marshall County deer hunters have reported, as required by law, 139 deer as of mid week. Of those, 41 were adult doe deer and one fawn doe deer.

Antlered bucks reported were 91, with 5 button bucks and just one shed-antlered buck. That makes the total so far 139. This author monitors the Iowa DNR deer and wild turkey reporting tally from their website to gain an understanding of the highest take counties, the more moderate takeoffs, and the lower ranking counties.

The differences in total numbers reflect habitat diversity. Larger blocks of timber along the Mississippi River and many interior river corridors, and the hilly landscapes of southern Iowa account for those counties with highest harvest numbers.

Between now and the end of gun season number two, which runs from Dec. 9-17, an additional takeoff from the total population will add approximately another 70,000 deer. Thus, the archery takeoff and the gun takeoff will be close to 100,00 harvests.

This number is well within the goals of DNR biologists and managers of what is sustainable. The remaining deer population that remains is fully capable of replacing what hunters took off the land. An estimate of the overall population of deer at the end of all seasons will be about 350,000 animals, plus or minus.

Once the second gun season ends on Dec 17, the late archery season resumes, and at the same time, the late muzzleloader season begins. Both of these weapon preferences have an end date of Jan. 10, 2023.

This system of hunting dates and weapon choices works well for Iowa.


There is always a story behind every deer hunt. To help fill in the details of today’s image of a nice buck deer I harvested on Oct. 19, 2005, the following is my account of how that day and hunt came about. I remember vividly exactly how that special day and special deer came close enough to be killed by my arrow.

I have been archery hunting deer in Iowa since 1967. My first whitetail deer however was from the Black Hills of South Dakota in October 1966.

I was still enlisted in the Air Force and stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base. In August of 1967, I was honorably discharged, so back to Iowa I came to begin other employment and to attend Iowa State University from 1968-1971.

A lot of time lies between 1966 and 2005 — in fact, the number is 39 years. Yes, it took me 39 years to put a lethal arrow through a really big buck deer even though I had been trying each and every year to be in the right place, right time situation.

In all those intermediate years, I took doe deer and several nice but smaller antlered deer, each as the opportunity presented itself, during those other 38 years. And then it happened.

On a crisp October day, the 19th to be exact, of the year 2005, I hiked to my tree ladder stand on private land, silently climbed the ladder to the seat, pulled my bow up by a haul line, and waited. Hunting requires lots of patience and the ability to sit or stand as motionless as

possible for several hours.

My camouflaged clothing helped me blend into the background of a very large oak tree my stand had been secured to. Several doe deer and small bucks moved about the vicinity. None were close, but still, all were interesting to observe.

I can still recall from my memory how today’s big buck image makes that 2005 hunt so special. It was like a ghost just appeared out of the surrounding brush as he walked a trail and came closer and closer to my tree.

I had never seen this buck before. I had never captured his image on a trail camera. He was cruising his territory to check out any scent scrapes or inspect the passing scent lines of any doe deer who had passed by previously.

He stopped broadside at 20 yards. The buck had no idea I was watching him. With my bow in hand and at full draw, I aimed carefully and released my Easton aluminum XX75/2216 arrow from a Hoyt Rebel XT 64 pound draw weight compound bow. The business end of the arrow had a muzzy three blade broadhead attached. The arrow made a complete pass through of the buck’s chest for a double lung hit.

This entire slice of time from first noticing the buck until my arrow had done its work took about 30 seconds, maybe less. I did not have time to get nervous or for ‘buck fever’ to develop to interfere with the concentration I needed to accomplish the successful shot. Once the buck

ran away, I watched and listened carefully, noting his escape route and then hearing a crash as he hit the ground and succumbed.

Now my body had a chance to recall what just transpired, how the right place-right time event unfolded, how my shot was good, and a dead deer, my special trophy deer, was awaiting my license tag to be placed. My excitement level was building higher and higher as I picked up my arrow.

The blood trail was easy to follow. And about 30 yards into the forest, a big buck lay semi-wrapped around a small mulberry tree trunk. That was where he expired.

I immediately knew it was a tremendous deer with a great antler configuration. I knew it would be eligible for the Pope and Young Club archery record book. I just did not know how his antlers would eventually score once enough official time and measurements were calculated.

I placed my Iowa deer tag on his antler. He was now my legal possession, my deer, and remains my best-to-date whitetail.

The antlers on my deer were subsequently scored for the P&Y Club. Its final score was 161 5/8. At the Iowa Bowhunter’s Spring Banquet in March of 2006, those antlers were on display, along with other Iowa archery deer, for recognition of the fall 2005 hunt season.

It won the award that year for best Iowa whitetail deer. However, it is the story behind that deer hunt that lives on in my memory each and every time I look at it.

That memory, and other outdoor archery excursions, are what keeps me doing what I do — utilizing my time to enjoy Iowa’s unique natural areas, with cameras and of course, a bow and arrow.


During 2023, there is a renewed interest in Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). It was first detected in Marshall County during the summer of 2023. Now, an increased surveillance and testing process will be available to hunters.

DNR biologists will be asking for hunter cooperation to obtain increased deer lymph gland samples for the next three to five years. This is to gauge the prevalence of CWD and its distribution.

The DNR is not proposing any deer hunting regulation changes in Marshall County at this time. Hunters are encouraged to submit samples. A drop off point for deer heads, or for neck lymph glands, if removed by the hunter, is located at the Marshall County Conservation Board maintenance building near the Fairgrounds in Marshalltown. The freezer to place samples is outside the shop, at its northwest corner. Instructions on how to label deer heads or lymph samples are tapped to the freezer lid. Questions about CWD can be addressed to biologist Rodney Ellingson at 641-751-9767.


Deer hunters are strongly encouraged to stay safe, have a plan, hunt the plan, know where everyone is, and at the end of the day, enjoy great comradery over the new memories that were created by your own 2023-24 Iowa deer hunts. The DNR law enforcement officer to contact in this area for information or to answer questions is Brett Reece at 641-751-0931.


Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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