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Iowa hunting seasons open

Iowa Outdoors

August 30, 2018
With Brett Reece - State Game Warden , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Starting Sept. 1, hunters will be tucking into the edge of sunflowers and wheat fields awaiting the arrival of the most popular game bird in the country. Iowa's dove season begins September 1.

Fast paced and fun, dove hunting can be done by nearly everyone regardless of skill level or mobility. It doesn't require expensive equipment to participate, only clothes that blend in to the background, a bucket and plenty of shells. There's a lot of action with a steady stream of doves coming in.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) includes a list of wildlife areas at where dove plots were planted. Hunters are strongly encouraged to scout their areas before the season opens especially in northern Iowa where June rains likely impacted many dove fields and plantings may have failed.

Article Photos

Brett Reece

Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa DNR, said hunters looking for Plan B could scout silage or hay fields, harvested small grain fields, grazed pastures or feedlots.

"Hunters should do their homework, scout the area a day or two before the season to see if and how the doves are using the area," he said.

He said there will likely be more hunters out and about because the season opens on a weekend.

"Hunters should maintain good spacing and stay in their shooting lanes and most importantly practice common courtesy," Bogenschutz said.


Dove season is Sept. 1-Nov. 29. Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. Daily bag limit is 15 (mourning or Eurasian collared) with a possession limit of 30. Hunters are reminded that their gun must be plugged to hold no more than three shells. If hunting public areas check to see if nontoxic shot is required.

Teal Only

Iowa's first duck hunting season begins September 1 with the 16 day teal-only season. These fast flying early migrators use the first cool spell in late August as a sign to start heading south.

Teal have a well-earned reputation as an easy to decoy species popular with young and novice hunters, said Orrin Jones, waterfowl biologist with the Iowa DNR. It's also considered one the most popular ducks for the dinner table.

"Teal are popular because they are pretty nave, often giving hunters multiple opportunities for success, plus the weather is usually comfortable and there's a lot going on in the marsh for kids to see," Jones said.

He said wetland conditions will depend on the weather in the next few weeks. If it's hot and dry, most will be low and muddy. If it's cool and wet, wetlands will be in better shape.

"Preseason scouting will be important again this year to identify which wetlands the teal are using," he said. "This is another reminder that wetland conditions and migration is weather dependent."

Teal season shooting hours are sunrise to sunset which is different than the regular duck season to help prevent misidentification. The daily limit is six teal (blue-winged, green-winged or cinnamon only) with a possession limit of 18.

Nontoxic shot is required and guns must be restricted to hold no more than three shells. Teal season is Sept. 1-16 statewide.


Iowa hunters take note: it's time to dust off the hunting skills and head to the woods to match wits with one of the most cunning species afield, the elusive Iowa bushy-tail. Squirrel hunting season opens Sept. 1 statewide.

"Squirrel hunters can go out knowing they're not likely to have their hunt interfered with by other hunters," said Jim Coffey, forest wildlife research biologist with the Iowa DNR. "We had around 20,000 hunters harvest 100,000 squirrels in 2017."

Squirrel hunting isn't just for experienced hunters; it's a season where novice hunters can learn necessary skills that can translate to other activities in the timber.

"It's a great introduction to hunting because there is such little competition from other hunters. Novices can fail and learn from their mistakes because there is usually another squirrel over the next ridge," Coffey said. "It can be done individually or with a group of friends often close to home. You don't need a lot of expensive or high tech equipment just a .22 rifle or a shotgun, and clothes that help you blend in to the landscape. Then find a grove of trees, get permission and start hunting. Squirrels are a plentiful, renewable resource and a high-quality, lean protein."

Hunting early season should focus on cooler parts of the day early morning and late evening, then shifts to warmer parts of the day as the temperature cools.

Hunters should look for timber with oak, hickory and walnut trees that produce nuts squirrels use for food.

Squirrel season is Sept. 1 to Jan. 31, 2019. The daily limit is six squirrels (either fox or gray combined) with a possession limit of 12.


The good news for Iowa's cottontail rabbit hunters is that Iowa has a lot of rabbits with the southern third and the east central region of the state leading the way.

The better news for hunters is Iowa's cottontail rabbit season begins Sept. 1 statewide.

"It should be an outstanding year for rabbit hunting not only for experienced hunters, but for young or novice hunters who can learn necessary skills and make mistakes with little competition," said Todd Bogenschutz.

Iowa's cottontail rabbit population estimates are included in the recently completed August roadside survey of upland wildlife species.

Results will likely be published around the first week of September at

Last year, an estimated 24,000 hunters harvested 120,000 cottontail rabbits. The most popular way to hunt is with a shotgun walking brushy areas with grass next to crop fields in the morning or evening. It can be done individually or with a group of friends.

Cottontail rabbit season is Sept. 1 to Feb. 28, 2019. The daily limit is 10 rabbits with a possession limit of 20. Jackrabbit season is closed. While wearing blaze orange clothing is not required to hunt rabbits, it is recommended. The Iowa DNR has an interactive map of places to hunt at: then click on places to hunt and shoot in the left column.



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