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. 

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.

Population and Harvest Trends, Small Game

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

Information includes:
White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, Furbearers, Waterfowl, Upland Wildlife, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Sandhill Crane, Bald Eagle, River Otter, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Black Bear, Gray Wolf, Trumpeter Swan, Greater Prairie Chicken, Bowhunter Observation Survey and the Ruffed Grouse Survey

Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2013
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2012
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2011
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2010
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2009
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2008
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2007
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2006
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2005
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2004
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2003
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2002
Trends in Iowa Wildlife Populations and Harvest 2001

Inquires and requests for bound copies should be addressed to:
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Boone Wildlife Research Station
1436 255th Street, Boone, IA 50036
or contact (515) 432-2823

Bowhunter in treestandThe Bowhunter Observation Survey is an annual survey conducted by the Iowa DNR to obtain information on deer, turkeys, and selected furbearers. This survey was initiated in 2004 and was designed jointly by the Iowa DNR and William R. Clark, Professor at Iowa State University. For each bowhunting trip, survey participants are asked to record the date, the county hunted, the number of hours hunted, and the number of animals observed while bowhunting.

Hunters are asked to record observations of the following species:
White-Tailed Deer, Striped Skunk, Red Fox, Raccoon, Bobcat, Wild Turkey, Opossum, Badger, River Otter, Gray Fox, Coyote, House Cat

The primary objectives for this survey are to:

  • determine the value of bowhunter observation data as a supplement to other deer data collected by the DNR; and
  • develop a long-term database of selected furbearer data for monitoring and evaluating population trends.

Bowhunters are a logical choice for observational-type surveys because the methods used while bowhunting deer are also ideal for viewing most wildlife species in their natural environment. Bowhunters spend a considerable amount of time pursuing deer from a bowstand or ground blind, and while doing so they typically wear camouflage and take steps to control or mask human scent.
Sample survey form for this survey

List of frequently asked questions regarding this survey

Current results:
2014 Bowhunter Observation Survey

Buy Your Hunting and Fishing License Online

Small Game and Upland Seasons
Rooster Pheasant (Youth)    Oct 24 - 25
Rooster Pheasant Oct 31 - Jan 10, 2016
Bobwhite Quail Oct 31 - Jan 31, 2016
Gray Partridge Oct 10 - Jan 31, 2016
Ruffed Grouse Oct 3 - Jan 31, 2016
Mourning Dove Sept 1 - Nov 9
Rabbit (Cottontail) Sept 5 - Jan 31, 2016
Rabbit (Jack) Closed
Squirrel (Fox and Gray) Sept 5 - Jan 31, 2016
Crow Oct 15 - Nov 30
Jan 14 - March 31, 2016
Pigeon Continuous Open Season

See the Iowa Hunting & Trapping Regulations for more information.

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.