This Saturday, Creston native Kyle Heatherington will awake long before the sun rises to illuminate the woodlands of southwest Iowa.
Saturday is one of — if not — the most exciting days for Heatherington. It’s opening day for deer shotgun season and Heatherington and a group of about eight friends have high hopes of harvesting the biggest buck in the area.
“I’ll be up early,” Heatherington said, “and I won’t get much sleep the night before. That’s just the way it’s been for me since I started going deer hunting with my dad and brother when I was 12 years old. Everyone has a passion. Mine’s hunting.”
Heatherington will be one of more than an estimated 100,000 hunters tromping through Iowa timber during Saturday’s opening day for first shotgun season. Iowa’s shotgun deer seasons are the most popular among hunters and account for more than half of all deer harvested.
Chad Paup, DNR biologist for south-central Iowa, said hunters will see plenty of deer this shotgun season with deer population locally comparable to 2012. Paup said hunters will benefit from the recent cold snap as deer have moved away from open areas and into the woodlands.
“The woods are concentrated with deer right now. Hunters should see plenty of deer,” Paup said.
Paup said last year southwest Iowa hunting was impacted by Epizootic Hemorrhaging Disease (EHD) — a virus that killed deer across central, west central and southwest Iowa. However, Paup said the disease will not be a concern this shotgun season as cold weather has killed off the insect that carries the disease.
Opening day forecast
First shotgun season is only five days long — from Saturday through Dec. 11. Second season runs from Dec. 14-22. That’s a relatively short time frame to harvest a deer and often times hunters have to adapt to weather conditions.
That said, the forecast for Saturday looks chilly. No precipitation is expected in the Creston area Saturday, but temperatures at sunrise will be in the single digits with an afternoon high of 20 degrees.
“Hunters are looking at 5 degrees at sunrise,” Hillaker said. “That’s below normal for this time of year. The only good news, however, is the very wind conditions expected Wednesday will die down by Saturday.”
Hunting hours during first and second shotgun season begins 30 minutes before sunrise and ends 30 minutes after sunset. Shotgun season is followed by late muzzleloader slated Dec. 23-Jan. 10.
Corey Carlton, game warden for Union and Ringgold County, reminds all hunters to be safe this shotgun season. Carlton’s top safety tips include always wearing blaze orange while hunting and always keeping firearms unloaded while inside your vehicle.
“Keep your blaze orange on,” Carlton said. “Guys will sometimes get hot while walking and will take off some layers of clothing. They’ll then forget to put the blaze orange back on. Don’t do that.”
Carlton said statistics show the greatest source for death or injury during shotgun season is when hunters are so focused on the target that they forget to look beyond the target before firing.
“They see that big buck and get tunnel vision,” Carlton said. “They get excited and don’t pay attention to their surroundings.”
Other helpful safety tips include:
• Developing your skills and knowledge, and sharing them with others
• When hunting in a tree stand, wear a safety harness. Serious accidents occur annually when hunters fall from tree stands.
• Make sure equipment is in good working condition and your firearm is properly sighted in.