Under the wide skies of mid-western Iowa, farm fields stretch to the horizon—and so do ideal habitats for game birds
The state of Iowa has very little public land, but under its habitat access program (IHAP), Iowa offers more than 20,000 acres across 51 counties for public hunting. There are more than 700,000 acres open to public hunting across the entire state, including 375,000 acres managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Bureau.
Iowa regulations require that anyone hunting small game wear blaze orange. This can be one article of clothing with 50 percent of its surface area covered in solid blaze orange.
|Species*||Season||Daily / Possession Limit||Notes|
|Ring-necked pheasant||Oct 31, 2020 – Jan 10, 2021||3 / 12||Roosters only|
|Bobwhite quail||Oct 31, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||8 / 16|
|Mourning dove||Sept 1 – Nov 29, 2020||15 / 45|
|Hungarian partridge||Oct 10, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||8 / 16|
|Ruffed grouse||Oct 3, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||3 / 6||Only open in the northeast – see regs for details|
|Rabbit||Sept 5, 2020 – Feb 28, 2021||10 / 20||Cottontails only|
|Fox and gray squirrel||Sept 5, 2020 – Jan 31, 2021||6 / 12|
Ruffed grouse call parts of Iowa home. One zone in Iowa that is dedicated to hunting ruffed grouse can be found in the northeast. U.S. Highways 63, 20, and 151 and Iowa Highways 13 and 64 border and define the zone. The ruffed grouse season runs from October 3 to January 31, with a daily bag limit of 3 birds. Note that hunters must wear blaze orange when hunting ruffed grouse.
You will want to try your hand at ring-necked pheasant while hunting in Iowa. That is because the state is known for its pheasant hunting, especially in the northwest regions. Dickinson County is the place to go. Most of its 20 public areas have great pheasant hunting, but other places also promise strong pheasant populations, like the Iowa River corridor.
The season dates are October 31 to January 10, with a daily bag limit of 3 roosters.
Bobwhite quail populations declined sharply in Iowa over the last five decades, but thanks to successful habitat management over the past few years, the numbers appear to be on the mend. Farms with shrubby habitats and diverse crops are strongholds for the species. More broadly, southern counties on the Missouri state line provide your best chance for finding quail in Iowa.
The quail season runs from October 31 to January 31, with a daily bag limit of 8 birds.
Dove populations are strong in Iowa, in part because of many wildlife management areas designed to attract them with wheat, corn, and other food crops. You can find these migratory birds in a number of familiar environments in Iowa such as low-standing crop fields. CRP lands, as well as pastures and sunflower fields, are also good places to look for dove. While you are not required to pay the Iowa migratory game bird fee, you will need to register with HIP to go dove hunting.
The season runs from September 1 to November 29, with a daily bag limit of 15 birds.
Other Species for Bird Hunting in Iowa
Gray (Hungarian) partridge are one among many other species available while bird hunting in Iowa. The season dates are from October 10 to January 31, with a daily bag limit of 8. Seasons for snipe and rail both open September 5 with daily bag limits of 8 and 12, respectively. There is a season for American woodcock that opens October 3 and ends November 18. The daily bag limit is 3. In addition to the normal HIP requirements, you will need to pay the Iowa migratory game bird fee of $10 to hunt American woodcock.
Related Conservation and Non-Profit Organizations for Iowa Bird Hunting
Iowa Hunting License Fees
|Apprentice license |
(includes hunting + habitat)
COVID-19 Regulations and Restrictions
There are currently no regulations related to COVID-19 that restrict hunting in Iowa. Hunters are urged to observe social distancing practices and to stay home if feeling unwell. Find the latest information on COVID-19 policies for the Iowa DNR here.
The Iowa Hunter Safety Course and Dog Training
Anyone born after January 1, 1972, is required to complete an approved hunter education safety course before purchasing a license for bird hunting in Iowa. After receiving a hunter education certificate, both residents and nonresidents will be eligible for a license. The course is $28.95 and can be completed online, or through classroom instruction. Both require a field day.
Dog training for bird hunting in Iowa happens from July 16 to March 14. You will need to pay the habitat fee and possess a hunting license to train dogs on game birds. Additionally, you will need to band any birds used. During closed seasons, you can only use a pistol, revolver, or other gun shooting blank cartridges.
The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for the most up-to-date information on bird hunting in Iowa.
Project Upland is an editorial initiative to capture the cultures and traditions of upland bird hunting. We seek to inspire a future generation of upland bird hunters to understand the essence of hunting traditions and the critical cause for conservation.