Hunting seasons open this weekend
Rabbit, squirrel season
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 www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey.
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 www.iowadnr.gov/hunting, with more than 600,000 acres of public land that allows hunting.
Iowa’s sunflower and wheat fields will be popular places on Sept. 1, when thousands of hunters slip into the standing flowers and field edges in the early morning darkness for the opening day of dove hunting season.
Fast paced and fun, dove hunting can be done by nearly everyone regardless of skill level or mobility. It doesn’t require expensive equipment to participate, only clothes that blend in to the background, a bucket and plenty of shells. There’s a lot of action with a steady stream of doves coming in.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) includes a list of wildlife areas at www.iowadnr.gov/doves where dove plots were planted. Hunters are strongly encouraged to scout their areas before the season opens especially in southwest and western Iowa where May rains likely impacted many dove fields and plantings may have failed.
Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa DNR, said hunters looking for Plan B may want to focus on private land where farmers impacted by the flooding did a preventive planting. They could also look for silage or hay fields, harvested small grain fields, grazed pastures or feedlots.
“It really comes down to scouting, getting out there and looking at the area. If you’re on a public area look to see if the dove fields got in, if it matured and got mowed. Then scout it a day or two ahead of the season to see if and how the doves are using it,” he said.
He said there will likely be more hunters out and about because the season opens on a weekend.
“Hunters should maintain good spacing and stay in their shooting lanes and most importantly practice common courtesy,” Bogenschutz said.
All dove hunters are required to register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP). It’s free, fast and the information is used to help determine participation and harvest. Register by following the instructions at www.iowadnr.gov/doves or by calling 1-855-242-3683.
Dove season is Sept. 1-Nov. 29. Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. Daily bag limit is 15 (mourning or Eurasian collared) with a possession limit of 30. Hunters are reminded that their gun must be plugged to hold no more than three shells. If hunting public areas north of I-80, hunters should check to see if nontoxic shot is required.
Iowa’s 16-day statewide teal-only hunting season begins September 1 and all indicators are pointing towards hunters having a good year in Iowa.
“We likely had good production on our marshes this spring and our wetlands are in their normal late summer conditions,” said Orrin Jones, state waterfowl biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Teal are an abundant species that is lightly harvested. It’s a fun species to hunt because they decoy fairly easily and often will make a few passes over the marsh, which makes it a good season to bring a young or novice hunter along.”
Part of the attraction to teal hunting, in addition to more comfortable weather, is that hunters don’t need a lot of gear to have an enjoyable hunt—just a dozen or two decoys, camouflage to blend in with the background and boots or waders (or a dog) to get any downed birds.
Jones suggested hunters prepare for the season by going through their equipment and replacing any that’s worn out or broken and spend some time scouting the areas they plan to hunt.
“Scouting is an important part of waterfowl hunting and is especially important for teal hunting. Finding shallow wetlands with vegetation is a key to success. It’s tough to predict when the birds are going to push through but hunting a wetland with water and food will improve the chances to find teal,” he said.
Because this is a teal-only hunting season, properly identifying teal is crucial.
“Set up in a place with good visibility and use the sun to your advantage either over your shoulder or at your back. Look closely to determine if it’s a teal and if you’re unsure, give them a pass—they’ll come around again,” Jones said.
The September teal season is a bonus season that does not count against the number of days available for the regular duck season. It has different shooting hours from regular duck season; shooting hours for teal season begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. Hunters are required to limit their gun to holding no more than three shells and must use nontoxic shot only. The daily bag limit is six teal with a possession limit of 18.