Is it Duck Season or Rabbit Season? Much like Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck, Iowa’s hunters are subject to Bug Bunny rules on who can hunt and fish and when. Don’t worry, this scheme goes way back to England. When people hunted the “King’s Forrest” and were subject to the Kings rules on who could take what when. Why we don’t east swan’s (which are apparently tasty) goes back to England’s crown requiring a high fee to harvest one by buying a mark or brand to put on the Swan. Government toadies floated the waters and decide what hatched swans got what brands. In fact, today unmarked swans are still the property of the Queen. So, the critters belong to the sovereign until they let you harvest them. Remember the golden rule, those who have the gold write the rules. This ownership principle was confirmed in Iowa in 2013 when the court ruled our legislature has confirmed via is passed laws and regulations that owning land does not create the right to hunt the land largely because the State, not landowner owns the wildlife on the owner’s property. (Until it doesn’t, when it goes through your windshield, but I digress). Also, fishing is a bit different in that under Iowa law, private ponds can be fished by the owner or tenant and their minor children without license but everybody else needs to pay for privilege.
Conversely, rules are the price we pay for a civilized society. The concept of the tragedy of the commons, where everybody puts one more critter on a shared pasture show that absent rules, we tend to maximize our own benefits first before society. In animal harvesting, this can lead to zero animals to harvest for anybody due to over hunting and fishing.
All states have regulations regarding the hunting and fishing things by residents and nonresidents, big and small, fury and scaley on state-owned public land as well as privately owned land. The rules and fees favor residents, students and members of the military. Notice residency, not ownership of land dictates the treatment stats. A nonresident landowner has no secure right to hunt their own property, property for which they pay taxes to the state of Iowa.
A resident landowner can get two free deer hunting licenses - one antlered or any sex deer hunting license and one antlerless deer and they can buy two more antlerless deer hunting licenses. “Owner” is defined as the owner of a farm unit who is a resident of Iowa. A farm unit is not an acreage with some trees, it has to have some farm qualities to it. Nonresident landowners must apply for one of the nonresident antlered deer licenses by zone. The state spreads out 6,000 of these tags over 10 zones in Iowa has just under 10,000 people apply for these licenses. If they can’t get an antler tag, they get preference for the non-antler tag.
Don’t worry, the lawyers have been involved here too. Here is a case from Iowa couple of years back and final resolved out about a year ago in court..
The plaintiff owned ground in Iowa but didn’t live here. He was successful in getting a buck tag 4 out of six years and had to settle for a doe tag the other years and he shelled out the out of state license fees to do so, even though he pays taxes on that Iowa land. He filed a lawsuit asking the court to establish him filed an instate "owner" under for purposes of Iowa deer hunting laws. He claimed that not treating him as an “owner” violated his inalienable rights and his equal protection rights under the Iowa Constitution. The state did not respond within 60 days and the action was treated as having been denied. Court held that the state has every right to treat out of stater’s differently, regardless of land ownership as a legitimate government interest in wildlife management and called it reasonable, not arbitrary, and appropriate use of the police power.