All About Hunting In Iowa

Iowa, a U.S. state, is renowned for its beautiful landscape of forests, rolling plains and vast swathes of cornfields. The state is flanked between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

The state has a huge potential when it comes to hunting. Hunters pursuing elk and deer must be aware that the state of Iowa bestows animals of big game species in plenty.

Other small game species are also adequate and can be hunted when the shooting of big game species is not allowed.

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1. Hunting Season

Iowa hunting season includes deer, turkey, pheasant and a listing of small game. Hunting season in Iowa mainly varies depending on the primary factors like breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns.

If the animal population is large, moderators will time it to provide hunters a greater advantage to hunt. If the population is dwindling, they will set the dates to give the animals a greater survival advantage.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has bifurcated the hunting season, on the basis of the size of the game animal, into two sections: Big Game Hunting Season and Small Game Hunting Season.

1.1 Big Game Hunting Season

Big game species in Iowa mainly consists of deer and feral hogs. Depending on the weapon used to shoot deer, the hunting season of is enumerated below.

  • The Youth Iowa Deer Hunting Season is from September 19 to October 4.
  • The Disabled Iowa Deer Hunting Season commences from September 16 and ends on October 4.
  • For archery hunting, the season is from October 1 to December 4 and December 21 to January 10.
  • The early and late muzzleloader deer hunting season is from October 17 to 25 and December 21 to January 10, respectively.
  • Regular Gun Season 1 and 2 is from December 5 to 9 and December 12 to 20, respectively.
  • Holiday Antlerless hunting season is from December 24 to January 2.

Feral hogs are any species of hogs that wander around freely on either public or private land and is lawful to kill these animals on sight when they are on public or private property of the hunter.

Though there are no such bag limit restrictions for feral hogs, a resident or nonresident license must be possessed by the hunter.

1.2 Small Game Hunting Season

Small game species in Iowa mainly comprises rooster pheasant, bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbit, fox or gray squirrel, crow, pigeon and groundhog. The particular hunting season for each animal is mentioned below.

  • Rooster Pheasant can be hunted between October 31 to January 10.
  • Bobwhite Quail hunting season starts from October 31 to January 31.
  • Ruffed Grouse hunting season commences from October 3 to January 31.
  • Cottontail Rabbit can be hunted between September 5 and February 28.
  • Fox or Gray Squirrel hunting season starts from September 5 to January 31.
  • Crows can be hunted between October 15 to November 30 and January 14 to March 31.
  • Pigeon and Groundhog has open hunting season.

2. What Species to Hunt in Iowa?

The dense green foliage of Iowa is a beautiful sight to behold and is the home to a diverse group of animals. The fauna of Iowa is described in details in the following sections.

2.1 Deer

Iowa is the home to certain excellent white-tailed deer. The main factors to help make possible Iowa’s whitetails to become large in body weight are sufficiency of food and gentle or mild weather, and when the deer grow to maturity, often possess impressive antlers.

They have dichromatic vision while humans normally have trichromatic vision. That is why, deer cannot distinguish properly the oranges and reds that stand out so well to humans, and this very fact makes it very convenient to use hunter-orange as a safety color on clothes and caps to avoid accidental shootings.

The IDNR maintains a record of the largest antlered deer harvested in the state with firearms and archery. Those who successfully harvest a deer with trophy-sized antlers are encouraged to enter the rack in Iowa’s big game registry.  Award certificates will be issued to eligible entries that meet minimum standards.

2.2 Feral Hogs

Unfortunately, the feral hog population has become a growing concern in Iowa. The population growth rate for this species is dwindling. Hence, hunters are encouraged to report to the DNR if they sight any hog. 

They have a large head with a long snout that is facilitated by a special prenasal bone and by a strip of cartilage at the tip. There is no bag limit restriction for hunting hogs, however, you must possess either a resident or nonresident license.

2.3 Rooster Pheasant

Rooster Pheasants are beautifully colored with a combination of russet, copper, brown, gray and black on the body. A white ring is present on the neck of the males.

They are long-tailed and chicken-like game-birds. Iowa’s interspersion of grasslands and croplands make the game-bird one of the top pheasant harvest states in the nation.

Hunters may harvest three rooster pheasants each day with a possession limit of 12.

2.4 Bobwhite Quail

Because of its cheery “bob-bob-white” whistle, it has been named as ‘Bobwhite Quail’. They have white chins and upper throats, a white stripe that extends from the bill through the eye to the back of the head, and a brown to black chest collar under the throat and chin.

In Iowa, a hunter’s opportunities are greatly improved, both in terms of shooting and fetching birds to hand if he has a well-trained dog. Quail hunting is second to pheasant hunting in Iowa in total harvest and hunter participation.

2.5 Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed grouse are chunky, middle-sized birds and have a crest on the top of their heads, which sometimes lies flat. Rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female, while rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.

Grouse prefer young-growth forest and search for the densest cover possible in Iowa.  The state of Iowa has worked with numerous private landowners improving grouse habitat in their hopes of benefitting grouse and even woodcock.

2.6 Cottontail Rabbit

Cottontail Rabbits are 14 to 20 inches long with reddish to grayish brown fur. Hunting equipment needed for rabbit hunting is quite minimal as compared to other shooting sports.

All that you really need are warm clothing, brush pants, good walking boots and a shotgun. The entire state of Iowa is open for rabbit hunting and the daily bag limit is 10, with a possession limit of 20.

2.7 Fox or Gray Squirrel

Iowa has two species of tree squirrels. The larger fox squirrel can be differentiated by its ‘fox’ like red coat. The small squirrel is skittish gray and associated with larger blocks of more mature timber.

If one squirrel sees a potential predator, they will ‘bark’ sending all squirrels into cover and not to return until they hear other squirrels feeding. This implies that a hunter must move very slowly and with purpose while hunting.

Squirrel hunting in pairs can improve success, so you can take along a friend of yours, while squirrel hunting. The daily bag limit is 6, with a possession limit of 12.

2.8 Crow

Crows can be hunted both on public and private lands. However, hunting crows on privately held land is often an opportunity since many farmers loath them and will usually be happy to give you the permission to hunt crows.

There is no daily bag limit or possession limit and you can hunt crows as much as you like.

2.9 Pigeon and Groundhog

Pigeons and Groundhogs are open to hunt all year round. There are no restrictions on shooting hours, daily bag or possession limits. Hunters enjoy pursuing pigeons since it can be challenging and improve their hunting skills.

3. Where Can You Hunt?

3.1 Public Lands

Iowa controls over 375,000 acres which are available for public outdoor sports and recreational activities. Wildlife Management Areas in Iowa are funded only by hunters, fishers and trappers.

The funding sources used to control these areas ensure that they are managed to provide habitat for Iowa’s native wildlife species and also those species that migrate throughout the state of Iowa.

Wildlife dependent recreational activities are allowed to enable residents and non-residents to enjoy these wildlife species. Important Wildlife Management Areas are mentioned below.

  • Meadow Lake
  • Lake Icaria
  • Black Hawk Point
  • Clear Creek
  • English Bench
  • Waterloo Creek
  • Bailey Creek

3.2 Private Lands

In Iowa Habitat and Access Program, private landowners who have signed up, usually owning land in the conservation reserve, will depend on the DNR take over buying and planting cover crop seeds as well as all land maintenance.

In return, the landowners must automatically open their land to all hunters from September 1st through 31st May every year.

Areas are posted with signs, are regularly patrolled by Iowa DNR conservation officers and will be treated like public hunting ground, with the sole exception that it is private property.

4. License Requirements

In order to go for hunting, you are required to have a hunting license in Iowa. Anyone born after January 1, 1972 must be certified in hunter education before they are eligible to purchase an Iowa Hunting License. 

Iowa residents under the age of 12 can be issued a deer or turkey license, however, a licensed adult hunter must accompany each youth hunter.

4.1 Age Requirements

Iowa Resident youth under the age of 16 are not required to have a license, but must be accompanied by a licensed adult 18 years of age or older.

Non-resident youth under the age of 16 are required to possess a non-resident youth preserve license and habitat fee.

4.2 Types of Hunting Licenses

The types of hunting licenses in Iowa is enumerated below.

4.2.1 Iowa Resident

A resident is one who has lived in Iowa for a minimum period of 90 days. Active-duty military members and non -resident full-time students who live in Iowa and attend an educational institution in the state itself are considered residents.

All Iowa residents of age 16 or older must have a resident hunting license. Residents of ages between 16 and 64 are required to pay the Wildlife Habitat Fee.

4.2.2 Non-Resident

All non-residents of Iowa are required to possess a non-resident hunting license or pay the Wildlife Habitat Fee.

4.2.3 Youth Hunting License

Iowa residents under the age of 16 are not required to have a hunting license, but must be followed by a licensed person of age 18 or older.

Non-residents under the age of 16 are required to have a non-resident hunting youth hunting license.

4.2.4 Senior Hunting License

Iowa offers a free annual hunting license to residents of age 65 and older whose household income is below federal poverty guidelines.

4.2.5 Disability License

Iowa residents with disabilities may be eligible for non-ambulatory permits and species-specific licenses.

In addition, Iowa offers a free annual hunting license to permanently disabled residents whose household income is below federal poverty guidelines.

4.2.6 Military and Veteran License

Active-duty military members who are stationed in Iowa may purchase a resident hunting license. In addition, active-duty military members who are Iowa residents but stationed elsewhere are not required to have a hunting license while on leave.

Resident veterans with a service-connected disability may be eligible to purchase the Veteran Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License. Resident veterans who were prisoners of war during their military service are eligible for this license.

4.3 License Expiration

Hunting licenses go on sale on January 1 and expire on January 10 of the next year.

Non Resident Iowa Tag

5. Hunters Education

Hunter Education is a compulsory program that is devised to introduce students to multiple life-long skills that are vital to the many different types of outdoor recreational opportunities. The course teaches students basic survival and first aid skills, water safety and archery safety.

The minimum number of hours to complete the class is 10. There is no charge for the course, unless lunch is provided or room rental is required.

A person who is 11 years old or older may enrol in a course, but those who are 11 and successfully complete the course shall be provided with a certificate which becomes valid on that person’s 12th birthday.

Classes are typically held from March 1 to November 15 each year.

5.1 Classroom Instruction with Field Day

You can visit the website of DNR to get yourself registered. If, as a student, you require reasonable accommodations to participate in a classroom type education program, please advise the listed contact person at the time of registration.

5.2 Online Course with Field Day

The Online Hunter Education Course was devised for the busy students or working adults who cannot fit a traditional class into their schedule. It is recommended that the students of the online course be of age 16 years or older.

5.3 Adult Online Only Hunter Education Course

The adult online course has the same usual content as the traditional classroom course and online or field day course but requires state specific information to be covered along with a final exam in which the pupil must secure a score of 75% or better to pass.

5.4 Dual Hunter Ed and Handgun Safety Course

In order to pursue this course, you need to be 21 years of age or older and an Iowa resident. The course meets the requirements of training to carry firearms and includes expanded information on handgun safety and laws.

6. Rules and Regulations

6.1 Distance Regulations

In Iowa, firearm hunting must be at least 50 yards from a road. Either way, you can not hunt from or across a roadway.

Unless you have the permission of the owner or tenant, you must not discharge a firearm or shoot any animal within 200 yards of a building where people live.

6.2 Legal Hunting Hours

In Iowa, the legal shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement

For firearm deer hunting in Iowa, a hunter needs to wear solid blaze orange top or coveralls. A hat is not enough. If you are firearm deer hunting with a blind, it needs at least 144 square inches of blaze orange that is visible in every direction.

6.4 Bag Limit

Depending upon the size of the animal, the bag limits or tag permits in Iowa vary. The bag limit is generally more in case of small game and vice-versa.

6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?

In Iowa, it is unlawful to use lights of, any light from, or any light connected to a vehicle in areas where wildlife can be found.

However, small game animals like coyotes can be pursued using a small hand-held light by a person who is not in any vehicle.

Hunting with Tree Stand Safety

7. Bowhunting

Bowhunting is a challenging sport and requires a high degree of patience, perseverance and effort. In Iowa, one must become a proficient archer before attempting to use archery equipment as a tool.

7.1 Bowhunting Regulations

  • Residents who are 70 years of age and older may obtain a permit for harvesting antlerless deer permit for use state-wide.
  • The word crossbow implies a weapon which consists of a bow mounted transversely on a frame or stock and devised to shoot an arrow, bolt, or quarrel by releasing the string. The trigger should be mechanical or electronic and possess a functional safety.
  • It is illegal to harvest turkey or deer with crossbows that are designed to be fired with one hand or with pistol grips.
  • The projectiles used with crossbows for harvesting deer must be equipped with broadheads which are designed with at least 3 blades.
  • Explosives or chemicals may not be used with broadheads or arrows.
  • There is no current minimum diameter for broadheads or draw weights for bows.
Hunting Safely in Iowa

8. Game Calls

Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to tempt the animals to the trap. There are two kinds of game call: hand-held and electronic.

Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood or plastic and are extremely cost-friendly.

Electronic game calls are, however, not always accepted to be legal. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to hunt any non-game bird or non-game mammal except coyotes.


A prospective hunter needs to visit the green land of Iowa since it leaves people astounded with its variety of rich wildlife. All that you need to do is abide by the hunting norms and then you can go on a hunting spree.

For further information, you can visit the official website of Iowa Department of Natural Resources:


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