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Pheasant hunting in Iowa
2020-21 Hunting, Trapping and Migratory Game Bird Regulations

This is not a complete set of hunting, fishing and trapping laws but contains the information you are most likely to need to safely participate in these outdoor activities.

2020-21 Regulations, Hunting, Trapping and Migratory Game Bird, Full Book**
Season Dates, Upland Game Hunting Regulations, Migratory Game Bird Seasons & Limits, Deer Hunting Regulations, Fall Turkey Regulations, Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations, Nonresident Spring Turkey Hunting Information, Sunrise-Sunset Table


** Regulations Correction
The printed version of the 2019-20 Iowa Hunting, Trapping and Migratory Game Bird Regulations omitted the language from a new state law that allows hunters with a nonambulatory deer license to hunt during any open season until the license is filled, using the method of take allowed for that season. The error was discovered too late for the print edition. It has been corrected in the online copy (page 40).


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 2020 Small Game Distribution Map.


2020 August Roadside Survey Map
Shows the current information on ring-necked pheasants, along with comparisons to the previous year's survey.

2020 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.


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 or purchased online. There is a convenience fee applied to all online purchases.


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 Chinese ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus torquatus) and its subspecies which originates from a captive population and which has been propagated and held by a hatchery. For the purposes of this section “pen-reared pheasant” does not include a Reeves (Syrmaticus reevesii) or Lady Amherst (Chrysolophus amherstiae) pheasant, a subspecies of the Chinese ring-necked pheasant classified as a Japanese (Phasianus versicolor) or a Black-necked (P. colchicus colchicus) pheasant, or a melanistic mutant (black, white, or other color mix) of the Chinese ring-necked pheasant.
    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
         
    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 has deep roots in hunting and conservation culture. In order to develop dogs that can reliably hunt and recover game, it is vital to train with a variety of game under varying conditions. It is important that dog trainers and clubs know the rules concerning use of game during training to both support wildlife conservation and stay out of trouble with the law. Many state and federal laws and regulations apply to the importation, possession, use and disposal of game used in training and field events. These rules serve two general purposes: to protect the health and welfare of native wildlife populations in Iowa, and to ensure that hunting regulations are enforceable.

Dog training refers to any teaching or exercising activity involving sporting dogs in which the primary purpose is to enhance performance. Sporting dogs are utilized for hunting game birds and game mammals and include breeds as pointers, setters, retrievers, and hounds.

Regulations governing the training of sporting dogs vary according to what species the dogs are being trained with and where the training takes place.

Dog Training and Trialing Information

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.

Iowa became the 42nd state to have a hunting season for mourning doves in 2011. Dove hunting provides an opportunity for hunters of any age or experience level to participate due to an abundance of birds, simple equipment needs and moderate physical activity.

Doves are a migratory bird and can be found in all 99 counties with highest populations in the Loess Hills and southern three tiers of Iowa counties. They prefer open habitats such as farmland, prairies, grasslands and lightly wooded areas.

More information: Mourning Dove Hunting in Iowa

Hunting News


How to Remove A Dog From a Trap
YouTube: South Dakota GFP

How to Remove A Dog From a Snare
YouTube: South Dakota GFP

Small Game and Upland Seasons

We work hard to keep our calendar current, but always refer to the hunting regulation booklet for official, legal season dates.



Continuous Open: Groundhog, pigeon and coyote (for trapping dates, see calendar above).
Continuous Closed: Rabbit (jack).



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.