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Iowa’s rabbit, squirrel season opens Aug. 31

  • 8/20/2019 12:22:00 PM
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The good news for Iowa’s cottontail rabbit hunters is that Iowa has a strong population of rabbits, similar to last year, with only the east central part of the state seeing a decline in numbers. The better news for hunters is Iowa’s cottontail rabbit season begins Aug. 31 statewide.

“It should be another great year for rabbit hunting not only for experienced hunters, but for young or novice hunters who can learn necessary skills with little competition,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Last year, an estimated 20,500 hunters harvested more than 123,000 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.

Rabbit hunting does not require a significant investment or high tech equipment, just a shotgun and some shells. Rabbit is a lean, low fat meat and popular table fare considered a delicacy in many culinary circles. 

Cottontail rabbit season is Aug. 31 to Feb. 28, 2020. 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. Shooting hours for rabbits is sunrise to sunset.

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

Iowa’s squirrel population generally follows the acorn production and last year saw good production statewide, with white oak and bur oak leading the way.

Squirrel hunting is an inexpensive way to introduce novices to hunting with little competition and is a great way for experienced hunters to get their equipment out from storage and sharpen their outdoor skills before pheasant and deer seasons begin. The same skills necessary for squirrel hunting are also used for spring turkey hunting.

Last year, nearly 17,000 squirrel hunters harvested 81,000 squirrels.

“Squirrels are definitely an underutilized resource,” said Jim Coffey, forest wildlife research biologist with the Iowa DNR.

Squirrel season is Aug. 31 to Jan. 31, 2020, with a daily bag limit of six squirrels and a possession limit of 12. There is no restriction on shooting hours. Both the gray squirrel and the fox squirrel can be taken in Iowa.

Hunters looking for places to go rabbit or squirrel hunting should use Iowa’s online hunting atlas at, with more than 600,000 acres of public land that allows hunting.