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By Mariah Griffith
From the September/October 2016 issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine
Hunting can be a great family activity or a solo adventure. Stroll through tall grass, hear the explosive rising cackle of pheasants, thrill at the thunderous gobble of a male wild turkey, see a few majestic deer—and maybe get the chance to take one home. That opportunity already exists on scores of acres near you, thanks in part to landowners who open their property through the Iowa Habitat and Access Program, or IHAP.
Through this program, landowners receive funding for conservation projects that build better wildlife habitat in exchange for allowing public hunting from Sept. 1 through May 31.
“In a state like Iowa, which has so much privately-owned land, this idea helps with hunters’ primary problem—finding places to hunt,” says Jim Colbert of Ames. Colbert has been hunting IHAP sites since the project’s inception. “New sites are always worth checking out,” he says, “and from what I’ve seen, the habitat management means they just get better over time.”
The first 10 IHAP sites became available for hunting in 2011, and since then the number has swelled to 175 properties spanning more than 25,000 acres across 51 counties. Each site is a minimum of 40 acres, providing ample space for even large hunting parties, and maps of each are available online with notes about potential game species. Sites are easily identified by an orange IHAP sign marking the walk-in area.
“We really want hunters to know we’ve created this opportunity,” says Kelly Smith, DNR private lands program coordinator. “We’ve got sites all over the state, and most people should be able to access at least one in an hour’s drive or less.”
To learn more, see maps and find locations, visit iowadnr.gov/IHAP.
8 Tidbits for the Trip
1. Papers Ready: IHAP sites are patrolled by state conservation officers, so be sure to have proper licensing and tags. Visit in season only.
2. Wear Boots Made for Walking: All sites are walk-in only and fairly large, so wear good footwear to keep your feet warm and comfy.
3. Bring the Dog: Animals trained to hunt pheasants or other upland game are allowed on IHAP sites. Untrained pets are not.
4. Leading the Blind: Blinds may be constructed on IHAP property, but only from willows on that property. Use of an existing willow blind is first-come, first-serve.
5. Ditch the Trappings: IHAP sites are open for public hunting only, so leave the fishing and trapping gear at home.
6. Leave a Note: Hunter survey cards and a collection box are prominently located next to the IHAP sign at each property. Fill out a card per site per hunting party per day to help the DNR improve the experience.
7. Safety and Courtesy: Respect landowners and state laws by staying at least 200 feet from any dwelling or livestock structure on IHAP land. No weapon may be discharged in this area. However, if game you’ve wounded goes within this radius or to an adjoining property, you may follow its trail to recover the animal. Make sure to leave your gun or bow behind if crossing this zone or adjacent property.
8. Stash the Trash: Keep IHAP properties clean by picking up litter or spent ammunition shells. The landowner (and the next hunter) will appreciate it.