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Pheasant Hunting Information

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.

Bobwhite Quail Life History Information

Ring-necked Pheasant Life History Information

The Ring-necked Pheasant in Iowa - Farris 1977

What We Know About Nesting

Effects of Weather and Habitat on Pheasant Survival

What We Know About Weather

Effect of Hunting Seasons on Populations

Pheasant Hunting Fact Sheet

What You Need To Wear

Iowa law 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, shirt or coveralls. Upland game birds include: pheasant, quail, gray partridge and ruffed grouse in Iowa.   

Having clothing that can hold up to the abrasive nature of the native grasses in which birds can be found is key.  

The five basic clothing items you need to get started are:

- Blaze Orange Hat or Cap - Blaze Orange Bird Vest - Brush Pants, Chaps, or Carhartt Style Pants - Long Sleeved Shirt, Jacket or Sweatshirt - Sturdy Boots

 

Firearm and Ammunition Selection

When choosing a firearm for pheasant hunting, the best advice we can give is to buy a gun that is light and with the least amount of recoil.  For most people, this would be a 20 gauge, semi-automatic shotgun.

As for ammunition, the recommendation is to use a 1 oz. load of #4 or #6 lead shot, with a 1,300 feet/second velocity or a 1 oz. load of #2 or #4 steel shot, with a 1,300 feet/second velocity.

TIP:  The lighter the shotgun, the heavier the load (ammunition), the faster the speed/velocity (ammunition), the more sever the recoil will be when a shot is taken.  

Alternative Ammunition (Non-Toxic Shot)

Alternative ammunition 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 alternative ammunition is required.  

The Iowa DNR has created a hunting atlas for you to view public hunting locations across the state.  It is an interactive map that shows ALL lands (Wildlife Management Areas, State Forests, County Conservation Board Management Areas, Army Corps of Engineers, Habitat and Access Program and some U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuges) open to public hunting in the state, totaling over 685,000 acres.  The Hunting Atlas also gives basic information about those areas such as: acres, general habitat description, expected species and links to more information and maps, if available. It will also tell a user what hunting zones any area of the state falls into. Check it out to help you plan your next hunt!

Iowa Hunting Atlas

Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP)

Licensed Shooting Preserves

Several shooting ranges across the state offer hunters a place to practice shooting safely and conveniently.

Iowa Shooting Ranges 

Flushing Pheasants

There are numerous strategies for hunting pheasant, but we recommend walking and flushing.  To hunt pheasants by this method, all hunters in the party walk in a straight line down a field.  This ensures that all hunters are aware of the location of members in their hunting party.  Make sure you identify your target and know what is beyond your target before you pull the trigger. 

Zones of FireEach hunters needs to ensure that they only take shots within their zone of fire (see illustration to the left).  When hunting with dogs, they work in front of the group.  It is important to remember to avoid low shots as well so that your canine companion is not accidentally struck.  

 

 

Tips for a Safe Hunt

  • Iowa law requires hunters to wear at least one of the following articles of visible, external apparel with at least 50 percent of its surface area solid blaze orange: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls.
  • Hunters should stay in communication with each other and to stay in a straight line while pushing a field. Conservation officers have investigated a number of incidents where hunters have been in a semicircle and had been shooting towards one-another.
  • Discuss the hunting plan that spells out how the hunt will take place, each person’s role in the hunt and where each person will be at all times.
  • Know exactly where standers will be located, especially when hunting standing corn or tall switch grass. Too often the standers get shot by the pushers as they near the end of the field and the birds begin to flush.
  • Make sure to unload the gun when crossing a fence or other obstacle to avoid it accidentally discharging.
  • Properly identify the target and what is beyond it. This will be especially important for the next few weeks if hunting in fields that still have standing corn.
  • If hunting with a dog, never lay a loaded gun against a fence. Hunting dogs are usually excited to be in the field and could knock the gun over causing it to discharge.
  • Share the hunt. Take someone new along to help keep Iowa’s great hunting tradition alive.

Off-Site Resources:

Getting Started:  Pheasants Forever's Guide for Beginners

Where to Hunt:  Public Access Available to Pheasant Hunters

Hunter Safety & Ethics:  Always Be Safe & Be an Ethical Hunter

How to Clean a Pheasant

Note:  A pheasant foot, fully feathered wing, or fully feathered head is required to be attached to transport a pheasant.

  1. First, remove the wings by cutting them off as close to the body as possible. Watch out for broken bones.
  2. Remove the head by cutting thru the neck as close to the body as possible.
  3. The next step is to remove the legs.  Remove the leg by cutting at the “knee” joint. 
  4. Starting at the top of the breast, skin the bird by pulling the skin toward the tail.  As you begin skinning, the crop will be exposed.  By noting what food is in the crop you can begin to plan your next hunt to take advantage of this information
  5. Skin all the way to the tail. Remove tail by cutting it off at the point where it joins the body.
  6. Cut along both sides of the backbone from neck to tail.
  7. Pull backbone from tail to neck. Most of the entrails will come with it. Remove any remaining entrails and the lungs.
  8. After washing in cold water, this bird is ready for packaging. Cleaned quickly and properly this bird will make for some fine eating.

Recommended Recipies:

Pheasant Nuggets - Iowa Game Wardens' Cookbook

  • 1 dressed pheasant breast
  • Cracker crumbs
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Butter, for frying

Slice pheasant breast into strips about 1/4-inch thick.  Dip in beaten egg and roll in cracker crumbs.  Fry in hot melted butter until brown.  

Pheasant and Dumplings - Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail - Upland Birds and Small Game From Field to Feast (Hank Shaw)

Broth:

  • 1 pheasant
  • Salt
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a parsnip, or 1 small parsnip
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms (any kind)

Toss all the broth ingredients into a large stockpot, cover with a least 2 quarts of water (you can save any extra broth for later) and bring to a strong simmer, about 200˚F if you're checking.  Drop the heat to below a simmer-look for lots of steaming and just a few bubbles on the surface - and let everything cook for 20 minutes.  Fish out the pheasant and remove the breast meat.  Shred it, then set it aside in the refrigerator and return the rest of the pheasant to the pot.  Cook for as long as it takes for the meat to want to fall off the leg bones, from 45 minutes for a pen-raised bird to 21/2 hours for an old rooster.  

When the pheasant is done, gently remove it from the broth and let it cool enought to handle.  Pick all the meat off the bones, being sure to remove all those nasty tendons in the pheasant's legs.  Put the meat into the bowl with the breast meat.

Strain the broth.  Put a fine-meshed strainer that has a paper towel set inside it over a large bowl or pot.  Pour the stock through this.  You might need to change paper towels halfway through if it gets too gunked up.  Pour the broth into a pot, and set it on low heat. 

Stew:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 a parsnip, or 1 small parsnip, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup vermouth or dry sherry
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and black pepper

To make the stew, heat the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Saute the carrot, celery, and parsnip for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often.  You don't want the veggies to brown.  Add the flour and stir to combine.  Everything in the pot will seize up, but that's OK.  Drop the heat to medium-low and cook, stiring often, until the flour turns the color of coffee with cream.  Add the vermouth and stir well, then start adding the broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until it looks silky.  It should take 6 to 8 cups.

Add the pheasant meat and bring this to a simmer.  Cook gently until the veggies are soft, about 30 minutes.

Dumplings:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup milk

While the stew is simmering, make the dumpling dough.  Mix together all the dry ingredients, then add the melted butter and the milk.  Stir just to combine-do not overwork the dough.  

Drop the dough by the teaspoonful into the simmering stew.  When all the dough is in, cover the pot and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.  It is very important that the stew not boil during this time, or your dumplings will get tough.  

At 15 minutes, uncover the pot and add the peas and parsley, stirring gently to combine.  Let this cook a minute or two, then turn off the heat. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, then the heavy cream.  Serve at once.  

Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Birds and Small Game from Field to Feast - Hank Shaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off-Site Resources:

How to Field Dress and Prepare Game Birds (Outdoor Life)

How to Field Dress a Pheasant (Colorado Parks & Wildlife)

 



Pheasant Hunting Checklist

What you need to know before you go!

  • A hunting license and habitat fee is required to hunt pheasants in Iowa.  
  • 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.
  • A pheasant foot, fully feathered wing, or fully feathered head is required to be attached to transport a pheasant.  
  • Firearms must be cased and unloaded in a motor vehicle.
  • You must have permission to hunt on private property.
  • The daily bag limit for pheasants is 3 and the possession limit is 12.
  • Season dates are from October 31, 2020 to January 10, 2021.
  • Shooting hours are from 8:00AM to 4:30PM daily during the season.

Special Youth Season

  • Rooster Pheasant:  October 24-25, 2020
  • Bag Limit:  1
  • Possession Limit:  2
How to Get Involved

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Pheasants Forever is dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.

Helpful Links:

Pheasants Forever in Iowa

Find a Pheasants Forever Chapter Near You