Hunting In Iowa

Last updated: 6th May 2023

Hunting in Iowa is a great decision if you want to experience trophy-quality deer and bountiful pheasant hunting while enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.

But unlike its surrounding states, Iowa has predominantly private land, which limits the hunting experience for some. Although still open for hunting, obtaining a tag can be a hassle and expensive if done through lease hunting.

Would you like to delve deeper into hunting in Iowa and uncover all it offers? Let’s embark on an adventure and explore the state’s wilderness together!

Iowa Hunting Season

Hunting seasons in Iowa regulate sustainable wildlife populations while promoting diverse opportunities for hunters. The hunting season length in this state is similar to that of South Dakota and Missouri.

Here’s the rundown of the hunting seasons offered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR):

Deer Season

Archery SeasonEarly October to Early December
Mid-December to mid January
Muzzleloader SeasonMid-October for a week
Mid-December to mid-January
Shotgun SeasonEarly December for a week
Mid-December for a week
Nonresident Holiday (Antlerless)During Christmas Holiday
Special Season
(youth and disabled hunters)
Mid-September to early October

Other Game Season

Wild Turkey HuntingSpring Season: Early April to mid-May
Fall Bow/Gun Season: Mid-October to early December
Fall Archery Season: Early October to early December
Pheasant HuntingYouth Season: Weekends of mid-October
General Season: Late October to early January
Groundhog and Pigeon HuntingYear-Round
Small Game HuntingCottontail Rabbit: Early September to late February
Fox/Gray Squirrel
: Early September to late January

Deer Hunting

If you’re seeking that trophy buck, you’re in luck! Iowa is famous for producing some massive bucks with impressive antlers. The state’s fertile land and abundant food sources help deer grow to their full potential.

Aside from its trophy-material quality, the deer population in Iowa is thriving, making an encounter with your possible hunt pretty high. The state has invested in quality deer management practices, which has led to healthier deer populations and a better overall hunting experience.

The state caters to different hunting styles and preferences of hunters. The IDNR allows hunters to use archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader in their respective seasons.

Nonresident Deer Hunting

Aside from the hunting cost, deer hunting for non-Iowa residents may seem a hassle and lots of work.

Non-residents must apply for a limited number of deer tags through a draw system. This can make it difficult to secure a tag, especially for highly sought-after areas or seasons.

Pheasant Hunting

Pheasant hunting is a long-standing tradition in Iowa, particularly in the northern and western parts of the state. The activity is well-loved and popular, so you’ll find a welcoming community of fellow hunters to share the experience with.

The IDNR conducts roadside surveys annually to estimate the pheasant population and provide a forecast. This data helps identify areas with higher populations and improve your chances of a successful hunt.

Aside from the richly-esteemed pheasant hunting, the state also boasts the excitement of hunting down a quail and partridge. The variety of game birds available adds to the enjoyment and adrenaline rush of the hunting experience.

However, weather conditions can influence pheasant or upland game hunting. Harsh winters, wet springs, or dry summers can impact pheasant populations and make hunting more challenging in certain years.

Wild Turkey Hunting

Iowa is home to a healthy population of Eastern wild turkeys. With spring and fall seasons available, you can enjoy turkey hunting during different times of the year.

Iowa offers both shotgun and archery hunting options for turkeys. This allows hunters with different skill levels and preferences to choose the best method that suits their style.

Spring is a favorite time for turkey hunting, as it matches the wild turkey’s breeding season.

During this period, male turkeys (toms or gobblers) are much more vocal and busy looking for mates. This makes them more likely to respond to hunters’ calls, which mimic the sounds of a hen.

The main objective of the spring turkey hunting season is to harvest male turkeys, helping the population grow and stay balanced.

Top Hunting Places In Iowa

These top hunting destinations in Iowa are considered the best because they offer diverse habitats, support healthy game populations, and provide various hunting opportunities for multiple species.

Loess Hills State Forest

Located in western Iowa, Loess Hills State Forest is known for its unique topography and diverse habitat.

The diverse habitat in this state forest is home to numerous game species, including deer, turkey, and small game such as rabbits and squirrels. The mix of woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands provides ideal conditions for these animals to thrive.

Aside from the ample hunting opportunities, this state forest allows hunters to explore the great outdoors while enjoying the stunning views and a serene atmosphere.

Rathbun Wildlife Area

This beautiful area in southern Iowa offers some excellent hunting opportunities in a diverse and scenic environment.

The Rathbun Wildlife Area is situated around the massive Rathbun Lake, making it a great place for hunting and a picturesque location to enjoy nature.

The area is well-known for its white-tailed deer population. The diverse habitat and abundant food sources make Rathbun Wildlife Area a popular spot for deer hunters seeking a successful and enjoyable hunting experience.

Tama County Otter Creek Wildlife Area

This wildlife area in central Iowa is a popular destination for pheasant and deer hunting.

White-tailed deer are plentiful in the Tama County Otter Creek Wildlife Area. The diverse habitat and abundant food sources make this location a popular destination for deer hunters seeking a successful and enjoyable hunt.

For pheasant hunting, this area also boasts diverse opportunities. It has a combination of grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands that support a healthy population of pheasants.

Red Rock Wildlife Management Area

The Red Rock Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a fantastic hunting destination in south-central Iowa. This large public hunting area is around the Red Rock Reservoir and along the Des Moines River.

The hunting prospects at Red Rock WMA are exceptional, with abundant opportunities to hunt deer, turkey, and waterfowl. The woodlands and grasslands in the Red Rock WMA are perfect habitats for deer and turkeys.

Hunters can find plenty of opportunities to pursue white-tailed deer and Eastern wild turkeys in the area’s diverse terrain. During their migration, the reservoir and surrounding wetlands attract numerous waterfowl species, such as ducks and geese.

Iowa Hunting License

It is crucial to obtain a valid hunting license to hunt legally in Iowa. Both residents and non-residents have various license options in terms of types and durations.

Also, hunters must have a valid species-specific hunting license if hunting deer or turkey.

Note: All hunters born after January 1, 1972, must complete a hunter education course before obtaining a hunting license in Iowa.


Adult HuntersAnnual Hunting: $22.00
Lifetime Hunting: $723.00
Youth HuntersAnnual Hunting: $7.00
Lifetime Hunting: $571.00
Senior HuntersLifetime Hunting: $65.50
Deer Hunters$33.00
Turkey Hunters$28.50


Adult Hunter5-Day Hunting: $81.00
Annual Hunting: $131.00
Youth Hunter$32.00
Deer Hunter$551.00
Turkey Hunter$123.00

Iowa Hunting Programs

Habitat and Access Program (IHAP)

The Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP) is designed to improve wildlife habitat on private lands while providing public access for hunting.

Through this program, the DNR works with private landowners to enhance wildlife habitat on their properties.

In return, landowners agree to allow public hunting access during specific hunting seasons. This program benefits wildlife populations, provides additional hunting opportunities, and fosters positive relationships between landowners and hunters.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP)

WHIP is a voluntary program that encourages landowners to create, restore, and enhance wildlife habitats on their property.

The program provides technical and financial assistance to landowners interested in improving wildlife habitat, benefiting both game and non-game species.

Walk-In Access (WIA) Program

The WIA program aims to increase public access to private lands for hunting by leasing land from private landowners.

This program enhances hunting opportunities in areas with limited public land access and encourages landowners to improve wildlife habitats on their properties.