RUSSELL M. CARTER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
IOWA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K.
appeals the district court decision on his petition for
declaratory judgment finding Iowa Code section 483A.24 (2016)
is not unconstitutional.
Stephen H. Locher of Belin McCormick, P.C., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and David M. Ranscht, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Tabor, P.J., Bower, J., and Carr, S.J. [*]
Carter appeals the district court decision on his petition
for declaratory judgment finding Iowa Code section 483A.24
(2016) is not unconstitutional. We find Carter, as a
nonresident landowner, does not have an inalienable right
under the Iowa Constitution to hunt antlered deer on his
property and the statute does not violate his equal
protection rights. We affirm the district court.
Background Facts & Proceedings
Code chapter 483A establishes a framework for the issuance of
hunting and fishing licenses in Iowa." Democko v.
Iowa Dep't of Nat. Res., 840 N.W.2d 281, 287 (Iowa
2013). "As a general matter, chapter 483A distinguishes
between residents and nonresidents for the purpose of
licensure. Residents are generally treated more favorably
than nonresidents." Id.
Owners or tenants of land, and their minor children, may
hunt, fish or trap upon such lands and may shoot by lawful
means ground squirrels, gophers, or woodchucks upon adjacent
roads without securing a license so to do; except, special
licenses to hunt deer and wild turkey shall be required of
owners and tenants . . . .
term "owner" is defined as "an owner of a farm
unit who is a resident of Iowa . . . ." Iowa Code §
483A.24(2)(a)(3). The term "resident" includes a
person whose "principal and primary residence or
domicile" is in Iowa. See id. §
owner of a farm unit may receive upon application "two
deer hunting licenses, one antlered or any sex deer hunting
license and one antlerless deer only deer hunting
license" without fee and "valid only for use on the
farm unit for which the applicant applies." Id.
§ 483A.24(2)(c). In addition, the owner of a farm unit
"may purchase a deer hunting license for any option
offered to paying deer hunting licenses." Id.
§ 483A.24(2)(d). An owner "may also purchase two
additional antlerless deer hunting licenses which are valid
only on the farm unit." Id.
nonresident who owns land in Iowa may apply for an annual
nonresident antlered deer hunting license. Id.
§ 483A.8(5). Each year, the Iowa Natural Resource
Commission makes antlered or any sex deer hunting licenses
available to 6000 nonresidents. Id. §
483A.8(3)(c). These deer hunting licenses are distributed by
a drawing, with preference points given under certain
circumstances. Id. § 483A.8(3)(e). If a
nonresident landowner does not receive a nonresident antlered
deer hunting license through the drawing, "the landowner
shall be given preference for one of the antlerless deer only
nonresident deer hunting licenses." Id. §
483A.8(5). The number of nonresident antlerless deer hunting
licenses available varies each year. Id. §
483A.8(3)(c). These licenses "shall be valid to hunt on
the nonresident's land only." Id. §
statutory framework was in place when Carter purchased 650
acres of land in Decatur County. The title to the property is
in the name of Ducks and Bucks, LLC, which is owned by Carter
and his two sons. Carter bought the property for the purpose
of hunting deer and other wildlife. Although Carter owns land
in Iowa, he does not live in Iowa and is a legal resident of
another state. As a nonresident of Iowa, Carter does not meet
the definition of an "owner" under section
483A.24(2)(a)(3). Over a six year period, Carter received a
nonresident antlered deer hunting license each year through
the drawing or lottery system, except for two years, when he
received a nonresident antlerless deer hunting license. Thus,
Carter has been able to hunt deer on his property every year
but in some years was not able to hunt antlered deer,
sometimes known as trophy bucks.
September 27, 2016, Carter filed a petition for a declaratory
order with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR),
requesting a ruling establishing him as an "owner"
for purposes of section 483A.24(2)(a)(3). In the alternative,
he sought a ruling stating the failure to treat him as an
"owner" violated his inalienable rights and his
equal protection rights under the Iowa Constitution. The DNR
did not respond to Carter's petition within sixty days,
and it was therefore deemed to be denied. Carter then filed a
petition for judicial review, as permitted by section
17A.19(1) ("If a declaratory order has not been rendered
within sixty days after the filing ...