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As non-residents of Iowa, you need to familiarize yourself with the tags, the application for the tags, and the lottery system. Most of the hunters that I speak to have been to Iowa before and know the system well enough to navigate it successfully. However, some hunters could benefit from this post and the insight within.

Iowa is a "draw state" for non-residents. This means that each year non-resident hunters must apply for their whitetail tags through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' tag lottery system. Since we are strictly an archery-only operation, this post will focus on such.


1) Create an account and/or verify your account on the Iowa DNR's online licensing website,


2) If you were born on or after January 1st, 1972, you will need to submit a copy of your valid state-issued Hunter Safety/Education Card/Certificate. This can be done by uploading the document from your phone into the mobile app, but I recommend calling the DNR to get their email address to send it in via email along with your personal information, DOB, and SSN.


3) From the first Monday in May through the first Sunday in June, you will have the opportunity to apply for your tag OR purchase a preference point. This is the open period. Purchase your first preference point, which does not enter yourself into the draw.

NOTE: You will not draw an archery tag without at least 3 or 4 preference points, of which you can only obtain 1 point per application period or year. So, three years = 3 points, four years = 4 points, and so on. Note: you can't get a point and a tag in the same year. Purchasing a point bypasses the draw. If you apply and don't get drawn, you'll get a point back and a refund of the total sum minus the cost of a preference point.


4) Now that you've got your first point purchased, you will wait a year until the period opens again to buy your 2nd point, repeat for 3rd point, and finally your 4th point. If you are hunting with us, you should be in contact (if not already booked) by the time you get your 3rd point.


5) You spent four years acquiring your 4 preference points, and are starting the 5th year of this planning phase of your Iowa whitetail archery hunt. Remember, you can't get a point and a tag in the same year. So, as far as the application for the tag goes: apply with 3 points on your 4th year, apply with your 4 points on your 5th year, and so on. This is the year of which you will apply for your tag during the open period. This is when you'll have to select a non-resident deer hunting zone (4, 5, or 6) and season (archery).

NOTE: Some hunters wish to apply with 3 points whom are extremely interested in hunting Iowa as soon as you can. What's wrong with that? Nothing, but it is not a guaranteed draw with 3 points like it use to be. Every year, the draw seems to get harder and harder because more and more hunters are buying points to start bowhunting in Iowa, which until the Iowa DNR and State of Iowa add more non-resident tags, the draw will become more difficult each year unless hunters stop wanting to hunt Iowa.


6) The application link is the same as listed under step #1 above. You will pick your zone, season, and add them to your shopping cart. You'll also need your hunting license & habitat fee. The DNR sometimes has a specific order to add these into the shopping cart, so start with the license+habitat fee (listed as a combo). If not listed as a combo, add hunting license first and then habitat fee. Then, you'll add your non-resident deer application to the cart, which will prompt you to answer some questions and fill in some information (zone, season). You will have a usual questionnaire about dove hunting in Iowa. Please answer such, and then proceed to checkout.


7) Be sure to double check your cart and the individual items listed. Make sure the ZONE and SEASON chosen on the application is correct. Then, submit your payment & finish the checkout phase. If any error messages appear, reread this post or call us.


8) You will be notified by the state when the results are posted. Usually, people find out by social media or from their outfitters (me!)... We expect results to come out in late June, between June 21st and June 28th each year. We are able to check this for you online if you are one of our hunters. HOPE FOR GOOD NEWS! If drawn, tags will be mailed out within the coming weeks to your address listed in your account/profile. If you did not draw, you will see a preference point has been added to your account/profile, of which do not expire and are not restrictive towards any specific zone or season. Better luck next year.


9) If you did draw, good luck on your hunt in Iowa (hopefully with us at MDL Outfitters)!!!


- Preference Points do not expire and are not restrictive towards any zone or season

- Once a tag is drawn, your point balance will deplete back to zero until you buy your next point in the next open application period.

- Points cost just over $60 but do tend to go up slightly each year

- Tag & License cost over $600 but do tend to go up slightly each year

- When in doubt or unsure, just ask... You don't want to mess up your Iowa buck tag!

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