Hunting in Iowa is an incredible experience. From the rolling hills and vast fields of the north to its thick forests and rich wildlife population in the south, there’s something for everyone.
Whitetail deer hunting reigns supreme here with a plethora of mature bucks roaming around looking for food; making it one of the top-rated destinations for hunters across the Midwest.
Whether you’re out on your own or guided by a professional, public lands are readily available throughout Iowa – boasting over 400 WMA (Wildlife Management Areas).
In this detailed guide, we will cover everything you need to know about hunting in Iowa. We will tell you what type of animals you can hunt here, where to hunt them, hunting seasons, license information, and much more. So, let’s get started.
What Can You Hunt in Iowa?
With its sprawling open lands and diverse wildlife, Iowa is an ideal destination for hunters. Whether you’re looking to go after whitetail deer, wild turkeys, or waterfowl, this Midwestern state has something for everyone.
Archery and firearms seasons are the best times to hunt deer in Iowa. The region boasts a healthy population of both whitetails and mule deer – so if you’re looking for some big game action, these animals should be at the top of your list. In the spring season, turkey hunting offers a unique experience with either bows or shotguns; while hens can only be hunted using shotguns during the fall season.
Waterfowling enthusiasts will love exploring the numerous wetlands and rivers that Iowa has to offer; ducks and geese can be taken during early (September) as well as late (January) seasons.
But don’t forget about small game like rabbits, squirrels pheasants & quail which also inhabit much of this beautiful Midwest state – they too can make great targets when bow-hunting or shooting with shotguns depending on their respective seasons.
Hunting deer in Iowa is a unique experience that can’t be matched. From the expansive forests, prairies, and wetlands, the Hawkeye state offers some of the best opportunities to bag a buck. Autumn through early winter brings peak season as bucks are most active during mating season – also known as ‘the rut’.
Archers will love stalking their prey from tree stands or ground blinds while rifle hunters can either take up position on a stand or still-hunt (slowly walking through wooded areas).
Whichever method you choose, safety must always come first when hunting in Iowa; wear blaze orange clothing at all times and follow local regulations for firearms & archery equipment. Scouting ahead of time allows you to pinpoint prime spots for deer activity so you’re well-prepared before heading out into the wild.
Deer Season Iowa
|Archery||Oct 01 – Dec 01, Dec 18 – Jan 10|
|Early Muzzleloader (residents only)||Oct 14 – Oct 22|
|Late Muzzleloader||Dec 18 – Jan 10|
|Shotgun (1st)||Dec 02 – Dec 06|
|Shotgun (2nd)||Dec 09 – Dec 17|
|Non-resident Holiday||Dec 24 – Jan 02|
|Youth & Disabled||Sep 16 – Oct 01|
Hunting for wild turkeys in Iowa is an experience like no other. From mid-April to mid-May during the spring season, hunters must obtain a valid license and tag before they can begin their hunt. Regulations such as seasonal dates and bag size limits should be taken into consideration when planning your hunt.
Stalking or still-hunting are popular methods used by turkey hunters in Iowa; however, decoys or calling techniques may also be employed to increase one’s chances of success.
Patience is key here since these birds can easily flee if disturbed by any sound or movement from nearby predators – so it’s important to stay stealthy.
Turkey Season Iowa
|Fall Archery Season||Oct 01 – Dec 01||1 Bearded Turkey|
|Fall Gun/Bow Season||Oct 10 – Dec 01||1 Bearded Turkey|
|Fall Archery Season||Dec 18 – Jan 10||1 Bearded Turkey|
Rabbit hunting in Iowa is a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. From late September through early March, hunters are presented with an abundance of cottontail rabbits, giving them plenty of opportunities for success.
Still-hunting is one popular method used by rabbit hunters in the Hawkeye State. For this strategy, it’s important to slowly walk through wooded areas or brushy edges while keeping your eyes peeled for bunnies. If you spot one, be sure to take aim quickly and accurately – these critters can move fast.
Using dogs such as beagles is another successful approach when hunting rabbits in Iowa; they have an excellent sense of smell that helps locate their quarry quickly enough so you don’t miss out on any chances at bagging some game.
However, keep your pup under control – otherwise, they may scare away potential prey from nearby coverts before you even know what happened.
Rabbit Season in Iowa
|Cottontail Rabbit||Sep 02 – Feb 28||10 per day|
Hunting squirrels is an exciting activity that can provide you with a delicious meal. The most common species found in Iowa are fox, gray and red squirrels which typically inhabit both hardwood and coniferous forests.
For the best chance of success, equip yourself with binoculars or a spotting scope to locate them before firing your .22 caliber rifle or shotgun filled with small shot-size ammo. To avoid scaring away your prey, be sure to wear camouflage clothing while hunting.
Late summer through early fall make for the ideal time when these critters are actively feeding on nuts and seeds – it’s no wonder why they’re so plentiful in this region.
Not only is hunting squirrels entertaining but it also provides you with lean yet flavorful game meat for dinner – making it one of the more unique ways to put food on the table.
|Gray & Fox Squirrel||Sep 02 – Jan 31||6 per day|
Fall is the prime season for quail hunting in Iowa as that’s when these birds are heading southwards during their migration. To make sure you’re hitting all the hot spots with potential prey lurking around every corner, it’s always best practice to scout out areas beforehand so that there won’t be any surprises come hunt day.
When it comes to getting geared up, you’ll want to have your trusty shotgun or rifle at the ready, a good supply of ammunition, and some sturdy binoculars.
Make sure you also throw on some camo clothing; blending into the landscape is key if you want to stay hidden while tracking these small game birds. Adding decoys can be beneficial too – they’ll help attract more birds to your area.
|Bobwhite Quail||Oct 28 – Jan 31||8 per day|
With its lush forests, wetlands, and rivers, Iowa is a great spot to find raccoons. Late fall and winter are the prime times for chasing after these creatures since that’s when they’re most active.
To increase your chances of success while hunting raccoons in Iowa, it’s important to understand their behavior and habitat preferences. Raccoons prefer thick cover like brush or trees where they can stay safe from predators; areas with plenty of food sources such as nuts, berries, insects or small mammals also make them feel at home.
Before you head out into the field on your hunt though, be sure to check state regulations – obtaining necessary permits beforehand is essential.
|Raccoon||Open Season||No Limit|
Hunting skunks in Iowa is an exciting experience for outdoor lovers. In the spring and fall, they’re most active, so that’s when you want to be ready.
Make sure you have camouflage clothing, binoculars, and a shotgun or rifle with appropriate ammunition before heading out into wooded areas, fields, or near water sources. Always keep safety at the forefront of your mind while hunting.
When looking for food bait to draw them out of hiding spots, try apples or corn – they love those treats! Then just wait until they come within shooting range; take aim once you’ve got ’em in sight.
Skunk Season Iowa
|Striped Skunk (Trapping)||Nov 04 – Feb 28||No Limit|
Coyote hunting is a great way to sharpen your skills as a hunter. These animals are exceptionally cunning and can easily outsmart inexperienced huntsmen. Plus, they have remarkable hearing and vision that you need to be prepared for if you want to succeed on the hunt.
Late winter or early spring tends to be the most successful time of year when it comes to hunting them due to their activity levels being at their peak along with their fur being thick enough for easy spotting while out in nature.
As far as equipment goes, there are several options available when it comes coyote hunting – from shotguns loaded with buckshot or slugs ideal for close-range shots all the way up through rifles chambered in .223 Remington or .22-250 Remington which work well at longer distances away from your target animal.
Also, make sure any electronic calls or decoys used during your hunt abide by local regulations.
Coyote Season in Iowa
|Coyote||Open Season||No Limit|
|Trapping Only||Nov 04 – Feb 28||No Limit|
|Trapping Only||Nov 04 – Feb 28||No Limit|
|Trapping Only||Nov 04 – Feb 28||No Limit|
|Trapping Only||Nov 04 – Feb 28||No Limit|
|Opossum||Nov 04 – Feb 28||No Limit|
|Groundhog||Open Season||No Limit|
|Gray & Red Fox||Nov 04 – Feb 28||No Limit|
|Bobcat||Nov 04 – Feb 28|
|Beaver||Nov 05 – Apr 15||No Limit|
|Rooster Pheasant||Oct 28 – Jan 10||3 per day|
|Rooster Pheasant (Youth)||Oct 21 – Oct 22||1 per day|
|Crow||Oct 15 – Nov 30, Jan 14 – Mar 31||No Limit|
|Grouse||Oct 07 – Jan 31||3 per day|
Gray Partridge Season
|Gray Partridge||Oct 14 – Jan 31||8 per day|
|North Zone||Sep 30 – Oct 06, Oct 14 – Dec 05||6 per day|
|Central Zone||Oct 07 – Oct 13, Oct 21 – Dec 12||6 per day|
|South Zone||Oct 14 – Oct 20, Oct 28 – Dec 19||6 per day|
|North Zone||Sep 30 – Oct 06, Oct 14 – Dec 05||15 per day|
|Central Zone||Oct 07 – Oct 13, Oct 21 – Dec 12||15 per day|
|South Zone||Oct 14 – Oct 20, Oct 28 – Dec 19||15 per day|
|North Zone||Sep 30 – Oct 06, Oct 14 – Dec 05||5 per day|
|Central Zone||Oct 07 – Oct 13, Oct 21 – Dec 12||5 per day|
|South Zone||Oct 14 – Oct 20, Oct 28 – Dec 19||5 per day|
|Teal||Sep 01 – Sep 16|
|Woodcock||Oct 07 – Nov 20|
|Sora||Sep 02 – Nov 10|
|Virginia||Sep 02 – Nov 10|
|Snipe||Sep 02 – Nov 03|
|Dove||Sep 01 – Nov 29||15 per day|
Iowa Hunting License Information
Hunting in Iowa is only for the brave! All hunters must have a valid license, which can be purchased online, over the phone, or at any authorized vendor. Resident licenses cost $22 annually and $61 for a lifetime; non-residents pay $144 annually or $77 for 5 days.
You may also need to purchase additional permits depending on your game of choice – deer, turkey, waterfowl, and small game all require specific licenses/permits. For bowhunters, an archery permit is mandatory too.
Be aware that there are restrictions when it comes to obtaining hunting licenses in Iowa: those aged 16 & under must complete hunter education courses first while minors between 16 & 17 still need to take these courses but don’t require adult accompaniment anymore.
Anyone born after 1st January 1972 has no option but to take up approved hunter education programs either in Iowa or another state before buying their license.
Where Can You Hunt in Iowa?
If you’re looking for a place to hunt in Iowa, the options are plentiful. From rolling hills to wetlands, public hunting areas offer access to small and big game species throughout the state and are managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
There are also private clubs that give hunters exclusive access to prime habitats across various regions. And if you’d prefer a guided experience with all the necessary equipment provided, there are outfitters ready and willing.
No matter what type of hunt or which region it takes place in, make sure you check local regulations before heading out – as hunting season dates can differ significantly from one species to another.
Public Hunting Places in Iowa
Loess Hills State Forest
The Loess Hills of Western Iowa boast a remarkable collection of wildlife species. Once home to large animals such as black bears, elk, buffalo, and wolves, this area now hosts populations of smaller creatures thanks to changes in land cover since settlement.
Fire control and agriculture have both had major impacts on the transformation; woodlands and farming confined prairie communities to ridges while also introducing new varieties of animal life like white-tailed deer, raccoons, quail, pheasants, and wild turkeys.
Stephens State Forest
Stephens State Forest is the largest of Iowa’s state forests, with over 15,500 acres spread across five counties. It stands as an example of effective management for the many woodland species native to this region, such as whitetail deer and gray squirrels.
As well as these larger animals, you can find raccoons, rabbits, woodchucks, and muskrats – all living alongside a variety of songbirds. Game birds like pheasant and wild turkey also make appearances in the forest during specific seasons.
For those looking to explore nature’s wonders up close or simply appreciate its beauty from afar – Stephens State Forest won’t disappoint.
Iowa River Corridor
The Iowa River Corridor is an incredible habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Deer, turkey, quail, pheasant, and waterfowl all call this lush forested area home. With both flatlands and rolling hills in the region, there’s plenty to explore when hunting game of any kind.
If you’re after that perfect trophy buck, then look no further. The abundance of whitetails here makes it prime real estate for deer hunters – from stalking through thick brush to still-hunting along the riverbanks.
And if birds are your game, then springtime brings flocks of turkeys that can be hunted with bow or shotgun as well as other varieties like quail, pheasant, and waterfowl.
Waubonsie State Park
Hunting in Waubonsie State Park is an awesome way to get outside and take advantage of some of the best hunting available in The Hawkeye State. With over 4,000 acres of forests, hillsides, valleys, and wetlands – this park offers a great range of places to hunt for deer, turkeys, quail, rabbits, or squirrels.
Waubonsie has plenty of different environments that make it perfect for tracking animals. The park is primarily wooded with some open meadows and prairies as well as areas with marshland – which are ideal habitats for diverse waterfowl species. As always though remember when you’re hunting here you need to follow state regulations within designated zones only.
Ledges State Park
With its beautiful forests and rolling hills, Ledges State Park is the perfect destination for hunters of all skill levels. The diverse terrain provides ample opportunities to hunt a variety of game including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, pheasant, quail, and rabbit.
Open fields dotted with thick woods provide ideal habitat for wildlife while steep ravines create an exciting challenge. What’s more, several streams and ponds attract waterfowl like ducks and geese making it a great spot for birders too.
For those looking for something extra special, there’s even bowhunting during select times throughout the year – providing thrilling adventures through wooded areas or from elevated tree stands overlooking open meadows.
Private Hunting Places in Iowa
Hunting in Iowa can be an amazing experience whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned hunter. But you need to know the rules and regulations before heading out.
Private hunting places in Iowa are available for rent – these will provide access to prime grounds without having to purchase your own property.
When looking for private spots, contact local government offices or landowners directly about specific guidelines governing each area. Make sure your next hunt is successful by doing your homework beforehand.