Pheasant hunting in Iowa
Iowa's Upland Game Hunting

Pheasants, quail, cottontail rabbits, and squirrels are Iowa's most popular upland game species. The Upland Wildlife Research Unit monitors yearly harvest and populations, as well as providing information to landowners and hunters. 

Small Game Licenses can be obtained from license agents throughout the state, purchased online or through the Telephone Ordering System (1-800-367-1188). There is a convenience fee applied to all online purchases and for purchases made using the telephone ordering system.

August Roadside Survey

Each year the Iowa Department of Natural Resources uses a roadside survey to assess its upland game populations. The August Roadside Survey, as it is called, is conducted on sunny calm, mornings, with a heavy dew on the grass, between August 1st-15th of each year with results posted in September. Most upland wildlife, particularly pheasants, hate to be wet. On mornings with a heavy dew, hen pheasants bring their broods to the roadsides to dry off before they begin feeding. This natural tendency allows the birds to be counted and reproduction can be evaluated by counting the number of broods seen and their size.

Survey routes are 30 miles long and are entirely on gravel roads. When conditions are favorable, Iowa DNR biologists and conservation officers drive their assigned routes, at 10-15 mph, and count all the pheasants, quail, partridge, rabbits, and jackrabbits seen. In all, there are 210-30 mile routes driven (6,300 miles) every August to assess Iowa’s upland game populations. Most counties have 2 routes, and the information from all of these routes is condensed to produce the Iowa Small Game Distribution Map.

2015 August Roadside Survey Map
Shows the current information on ring-necked pheasants, along with comparisons to the previous year's survey.

2015 August Roadside Survey Report
The full report is also provided online for individuals who would like to see more detailed and long-term trend information.

Small Game Hunting FAQ

Iowa requires upland game bird hunters to wear at least one of the following articles of visible, external apparel, of which at least 50% of the surface area is solid blaze orange in color: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, sweater, shirt or coveralls.

Individuals cannot transport a pheasant within the state without a FOOT or FULLY FEATHERED WING, or FULLY FEATHERED HEAD attached to the carcass.

Non-toxic shot is required to hunt all game animals (except deer and turkey) on selected public hunting areas in north-central and northwest Iowa. See the current hunting regulations booklet for a list of areas where non-toxic shot is required.

No, hunters are not required to have a plug to hunt small game.

  • Game Breeder
  • Releasing pen-reared birds into the wild
    Except for pheasants, Iowa Code 481A.47 prohibits the release of fish and game into the wild.
  • Iowa code allows landowners/tenants to release pen-reared pheasants on their own land.
    Iowa Code 481A.6A Pen-reared pheasants release by landowners and tenants.
    1. As used in this section, "pen-reared pheasant" means a pheasant which originates from a captive population and which has been propagated and held by a hatchery.
    2. Notwithstanding section 481A.60, an owner or tenant of land may obtain pen-reared pheasants from a hatchery approved by the department, and raise or release the pen-reared pheasants on the owner's or tenant's land. A person shall not relocate a pen-reared pheasant to any other land.

      Approved hatcheries:
      Cedar River Pheasants – Nashua, Iowa

      Iowa Quail Farm – Janesville, Iowa

      Hoovers Hatchery, Inc. - Rudd, Iowa

      Murray McMurray Hatchery, Inc. - Webster City, Iowa

      Malloy Gamebirds - State Center, Iowa
      (641) 485-9053
    3. A person taking a pen-reared pheasant shall comply with all requirements provided in this chapter and chapter 483A.
      484B.15 Pen-reared pheasants -- exception.
      This chapter does not apply to an owner or tenant of land raising or releasing pen-reared pheasants on the owner's or tenant's land as provided in section 481A.6A, provided that a person taking a pen-reared pheasant complies with all requirements provided in chapters 481A and 483A.

Dog Training
You need to have a valid Hunting License and have paid the Habitat Fee to train a bird dog on game birds per Iowa Code 481A.56.

Pen-raised game birds may be used and shot in the training of bird dogs. Before any bird is released or used in the training of dogs, the bird must be banded with a band from the DNR. Contact the DNR at 515-725-8200,

Dogs are prohibited on all state-owned game management areas, between March 15 and July 15 of each year; except that dog training is permitted on designated training areas. Only a pistol, revolver or other gun shooting blank cartridges shall be used while training dogs during closed seasons. See section titled "Dog Restrictions" in the current hunting regulations booklet.

Field Trial Events
Field and retriever meets are restricted to designated sites. A permit must be obtained from the DNR for field and retriever meets. The permit shall show the exact designated site of the meet and all dogs shall be confined to that site per Iowa Code 481A.22.

Visit the Iowa Special Events website to schedule a field trial event or view scheduled trials on public lands.

If you have a dog entered in a licensed field trial you do not need any type of Hunting License to participate in the event or to exercise your dog on the area on which the field trial is to be held during the 24-hour period preceding the trial. See section titled "Dog Restrictions" in the current hunting regulations booklet.

Does Iowa have any special regulations or permits when bringing hunting dogs into the state?
Dog owners are required to carry proof of vaccination against standard canine diseases.

The DNR does not regulate guides in Iowa. To locate guides in Iowa contact the local conservation officer or chamber of commerce in the county you intend to hunt.

Obtain a copy of Iowa’s Licensed Shooting Preserves online or by writing the Iowa DNR, Wallace State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319-0034, or by calling 515-725-8200.

View our online information under Places to Hunt & Shoot or contact the Iowa DNR by calling 515-725-8200.
Obtain a copy of the Iowa Sportsman’s Atlas online or by calling 800-568-8334.

No individual may hunt CRP fields without the permission of the landowner. The DNR does not maintain a list of CRP contracts in Iowa. The CRP is administered by the US Dept. of Agriculture, Farm Services Agency.

If the band number starts with the letters FT, you can keep the band. Birds carrying a leg band starting with the letters FT are pen raised birds that were released at a dog field trial event. If the band number does not start with the letters FT, please contact the Iowa DNR, Wallace State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319-0034 or call 515-725-8200.
Upland and Small Game Information

Upland Game, Life History Information:


Upland Game Research & Harvest ReportsThe Ring-necked Pheasant in Iowa - Farris 1977 (13 MB)
A Review of Iowa's Upland Game Bird Populations
Dove Hunting (Seasons, Regulations and General Information)


Habitat Programs for Landowners:


Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest
The Populations and Harvest Trends (Logbook) is compiled annually by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau. Publication for the preceding calendar year usually occurs in September.


Bowhunter Observation Survey
The Bowhunter Observation Survey is an annual survey conducted by the Iowa DNR to obtain information on deer, turkeys, and selected furbearers.

Buy Your Hunting and Fishing License Online

Small Game and Upland

Hunting & Trapping Regulations

2016 Upland Hunting Seasons

Rooster Pheasant (Youth)1,2
Oct 22 - 23
1 daily, 2 possession

Rooster Pheasant
Oct 29 - Jan 10, 2017
3 daily, 12 possession

Bobwhite Quail
Oct 29 - Jan 31, 2017
8 daily, 16 possession

Gray Partridge
Oct 8 - Jan 31, 2017
8 daily, 16 possession

Ruffed Grouse
Oct 1 - Jan 31, 2017
3 daily, 6 possession

Rabbit (Cottontail)
Sept 3 - Feb 28, 2017
10 daily, 20 possession

Rabbit (Jack) Closed

Squirrel (Fox and Gray)
Sept 3 - Jan 31, 2017
6 daily, 12 possession

Continous Open Season
no daily limit, no possession limit

Oct 15 - Nov 30 &
Jan 14 - March 31, 2017
no daily limit, no possession limit

Continuous Open
no daily limit, no possession limit

Continuous Open
no daily limit, no possession limit


1 Residents age 15 or younger

2 See p. 12 for complete requirements

3 Within 100 yards of buildings and bridges, pigeons may be taken year round.

4 May be hunted on either a hunting or furharvester license.

5 See p. 18 for trapping information. Coyote or groundhog may be hunted on a hunting or furharvester license.

They Gotta' Have Cover

This video premiered at the
2014 Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.
"They Gotta' Have Cover" Factsheet

They Gotta' Have Cover Three Iowa farmers rap about the pheasant habitat they’ve created to shelter and feed pheasant throughout the year.

It’s a quick tutorial: Grass 10 to 12 inches high is needed for nesting cover; flowering native plants attract insects which provide the protein hatchlings need for growth; and food plots that provide seed and cover during the winter months.