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 2016 Small Game Distribution Map.


2016 August Roadside Survey Map
Shows the current information on ring-necked pheasants, along with comparisons to the previous year's survey.

2016 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.

+ Must I wear blaze orange to hunt small game?
+ How do I transport pheasants in Iowa
+ Is Non-toxic shot required to hunt small game?
+ Must I have a plug in my gun to hunt small game?
+ Raising and releasing pheasants in Iowa
+ Dogs, training, dogs, and field trial events
+ Where can I find guide services in Iowa?
+ Finding licensed hunting/shooting preserves
+ Where are Iowa’s public hunting areas?
+ Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields
+ Shot a pheasant or quail with a leg band?
+ Places to stay within Iowa
Buy Your Hunting and Fishing License Online

2016 Preview
Small Game Seasons
2016-17 Small Game & Upland Seasons
Pheasant (Youth) Oct 22 - 23
Pheasant Oct 29 - Jan 10
Bobwhite Quail Oct 29 - Jan 31
Gray Partridge Oct 8 - Jan 31
Ruffed Grouse Oct 1 - Jan 31
Rabbit (Cottontail) Sept 3 - Feb 28
Rabbit (Jack) Closed
Squirrel (Fox & Gray) Sept 3 - Jan 31
Groundhog Continuous Open
Crow Oct 15 - Nov 30
Jan 14 - Mar 31
Pigeon Continuous Open

Hunting & Trapping Regulations

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.