The good news for Iowa cottontail hunters is that Iowa has a plentiful rabbit population, with the south-central part of the state having the best overall numbers.
The best news for hunters is that Iowa cottontail season begins today (Saturday, September 3) statewide.
“It should be another good year for rabbit hunting, not only for experienced hunters, but also for young or novice hunters who can learn the necessary skills with little competition,” said Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife research biologist for the lands. discharged from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Last year, some 17,000 hunters caught more than 100,000 cottontails. The most popular form of hunting is with a shotgun through weedy and grassy areas next to crop fields in the morning or afternoon. It can be done individually or with a group of friends.
Rabbit hunting doesn’t require a major investment or high-tech equipment, just a shotgun and a few shells. Rabbit is a lean, low-fat meat and a popular table dish considered a delicacy in many culinary circles.
Cottontail season is September 3-February 28, 2023. Daily limit is 10 rabbits with a possession limit of 20. Hare season is closed. While it is not necessary to wear bright orange clothing when hunting rabbits, it is recommended. Rabbit hunting hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Population estimates for Iowa cottontails are included in the recently completed August roadside survey of highland wildlife species at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey.
Local squirrel populations are variable depending on acorn production and it appears to be a good year for nuts in many areas. In areas of lower annual acorn production, look for walnut patches as an excellent alternative.
Squirrel hunting is an inexpensive and exciting way to get into hunting. Those new to the hunt can pick up valuable woodworking skills as squirrels will twist and turn hunters through the woods.
“One beauty of squirrel hunting is that if you mess up and startle a squirrel, there’s usually another one just down the ridge, which provides a lot of opportunity for success,” said Jim Coffey, forest wildlife biologist for the Iowa DNR. . “Experienced hunters often say they haven’t hunted squirrels since they were kids. Well, this is the year to be a kid again. Go squirrel chasing and bring someone new to the hunt. Squirrels are definitely an underutilized resource.”
Be prepared during early squirrel season for mosquitoes and other flying pests, Coffey said, and try to hunt early on cool mornings, as squirrels will be very active before the heat of the day.
Hunters will generally find plenty of squirrels and little competition. This would also be a good opportunity to do a little scouting for a spring turkey hunt or to look for whitetail deer petting before bow season.
“These honed skills will make you a better hunter overall. Many of the skills needed for squirrel hunting are also used for spring turkey hunting,” Coffey said.
Last year, nearly 17,500 squirrel hunters captured an estimated 103,000 squirrels.
Squirrel season is from September 3 to January 31, 2023, with a daily bag limit of six red fox squirrels or eastern gray squirrels total or a combination thereof and a possession limit of 12. Fox squirrels generally they are found in more open grasslands and woods while gray squirrels tend to be in more mature wood. There is no restriction on shooting hours.
Hunters looking for places to hunt rabbits or squirrels should use the online hunting atlas of Iowa at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting, with more than 600,000 acres of public land allowed for hunting.
Hunters have the opportunity to hunt these species on additional acres of private land enrolled in the popular Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP).
Enrollment in the program is at an all-time high of nearly 32,000 acres. The IHAP allows hunters to access the portion of the property covered by the agreement from September 1 through May 31. Conservation officers will provide assistance and enforcement, if necessary.