Iowa Squirrel Hunting Season [Rules and Regulations]

Iowa squirrel hunting season

Iowa is an excellent place for hunting squirrels. The state offers hunters the opportunity to improve their hunting skills by venturing into the woods to hunt for gray and fox squirrels. However, before heading to the woods, you must understand the small game hunting laws and regulations. 

Iowa Squirrel Hunting Season

It is legal to hunt fox and gray squirrels. The 2023 hunting season runs from September 3 – January 31, 2023, with a daily bag limit of six squirrels of each species and a daily possession of 12. The state consists of over 2 million acres of forests and trees, making it a great place to hunt squirrels.

However, before diving into the rules and regulations, let’s look at which types of squirrels reside in the state and where to find them. 

Types of Squirrels In Iowa

Four types of tree squirrels reside throughout the state, red, fox, gray, and southern flying squirrels. The state offers a suitable habitat for them, particularly hickory, oaks, black walnut, and early-stage species of cottonwood, river birch, hackberry, etc.

Iowa has a diverse landscape making it a great place to hunt squirrels. These rodents live in woodlands, forests, public parks, yards, and landscapes in residential areas.

Best Squirrel Hunting Locations in Iowa

According to the Hunting Atlas, there are over 763,810 acres of public hunting land throughout the state, including Wildlife Management areas (WMA’s) and refuges statewide.

This site will help you find a public Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in your county which are open for public recreation year-round. That said, an application is required 31 days before public events.

Iowa Squirrel Hunting Regulations

Hunters are responsible for understanding and abiding by the hunting rules and regulations. This entails when hours you can hunt, private and public land, bag limits, etc.

Many people enjoy hunting squirrels, but the laws differ in every state. Here’s what we found when researching the Iowa squirrel hunting regulations.

Do You Need A License To Hunt Squirrels In Iowa

Anyone 16 and older must possess a valid hunting license or permit to hunt in Iowa. Hunters under 16 years of age must be accompanied by a licensed adult 18 years of age or older. Non-residents under 16 must possess a non-resident youth preserve license and pay a habitat fee of $15.

In addition, the state requires a mandated hunter safety online hunting course before applying for a hunting license.

At the time of this writing, Iowa hunting enthusiasts can purchase the following types of hunting licenses:

  • Iowa Resident: Anyone who has resided in the state for at least 90 days or meets the state’s requirements for new residents. This includes active military members stationed in Iowa and full-time students attending an educational institution. All residents 16 – 64 must pay a yearly Wildlife Habitat Fee.
  • Non-Resident Hunting License: Non-residents of all ages must possess a non-resident hunting license and any additional tags and licenses.
  • Youth Hunting License: Residents under 15 are not required to have a license and are exempt from the Wildlife Habitat Fee.
  • Senior Hunting License: Residents 65 years can purchase a lifetime license package, which includes lifetime fishing, hunting, and a lifetime trout fee. Those that live below the federal poverty guidelines can hunt for free.
  • Military and Veteran License: Active duty military members stationed in Iowa qualify for a resident hunting license. Arkansas residents stationed in other states can purchase a resident hunting license. Resident veterans that are permanently disabled during active duty can apply for the Veteran Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License.
  • Disability License: Iowa Residents with disabilities can apply for non-ambulatory permits. The state offers a free annual hunting license to permanently disabled individuals with a household income below the federal poverty guidelines.

How To Purchase An Iowa Hunting License

This video will explain everything you need to know about purchasing a hunting license.

Hunting licenses and permits can be purchased online through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website or by visiting their office at 502 East 9th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0034.

Do I Take A Hunters Education Course to Get A Hunting License?

Anyone born after January 1, 1972, must be certified in a state-approved hunter education course before applying for an Iowa hunting license. 

If you’re moving to the state and already have one, contact the DNR, as they recognize hunter education certificates from other states and some foreign nations. 

If yours is not recognized, you have three options to complete the hunter’s education course:

  • Traditional: Live in-person classes are offered March 1 – November 15 annually.
  • Hybrid format: Online classes, then you will attend a 4-hour in-person field day. 
  • Online Class: You register and complete the online course offered by

Bag Limits

According to the Iowa Admin Code R. 571-107.3, hunters can possess six squirrels of each species daily with a daily limit of 12.

Iowa Small Game Animals

Whether you enjoy hunting squirrels or not, Iowa has several small game animals you can hunt. 

Below is a table and dates of the small game animals and dates for Iowa residents and non-residents.

SpeciesDaily Bag LimitsDaily PossessionShooting Hours
Squirrel (Fox & Gray)612No Restrictions
CrowNo LimitNo LimitNo Restrictions
Rabbit (Cottontail)1020Sunrise to Sunset
Raccoon and OpossumNo LimitNo Limit8 a.m. First Day

Hunting Methods

There are no restrictions for shoot hours during squirrel hunting season. That said, the best time to hunt for squirrels is either early or late in the day. Squirrels are more active at dawn and dusk.

Depending on your skill level, legal hunting methods for hunting squirrels in Iowa include archery equipment, slingshots, etc.

Additionally, cage-type traps are allowed as a hunting method, but you’ll need to check the trapping laws. The state requires individuals to apply for and possess a trapping license.

It is legal for homeowners to trap nuisance squirrels out of season without a permit. 

Can You Use A Dog To Hunt Squirrels In Iowa?

It is legal to use a hunting dog in Iowa, but canines are not allowed on state-owned game management areas between March 15- July 15 annually, except in areas that allow dog training.

In addition, the state has implemented some restrictions that hunters must be aware of, which include:

  • Rabies Vaccination: Hunters must carry a health certificate verifying rabies and other vaccinations.
  • Training Dogs: Hunters must possess a valid hunting license, and you must pay a Habit Fee to train a bird dog on game birds.

Hunters must abide by the rules and regulations of the hunting area. Failure to do so can result in fines.

Can You Hunt From A Motorized Vehicle In Iowa?

The laws will vary depending on where you’re hunting. You can not use motorized vehicles in any game management area. Shooting over any public roadway, highway, or body of water is illegal.

You must operate an off-road vehicle during daylight hours, and using them in any Agency-owned Wildlife Management Area is illegal.

Understanding the laws and regulations, failure to do so can result in harsh penalties and fines.

Do You Have To Wear Orange Or Camouflage To Hunt Squirrels?

According to the Iowa DNR, hunters are not required to wear hunter’s orange during squirrel season. That said, during deer season, hunters must wear a minimum of 144 square inches of visible blaze orange clothing, which includes; a jacket, coat, coveralls, shirt, etc. A solid orange hat by itself does not meet the state requirements.

Wearing hunter orange during squirrel season isn’t a bad idea. It makes you visible to other hunters in the area and helps keep you safe.

Equipment and Gear

Equipping yourself with the right gear can make all the difference in your hunting experience. Here is some essential hunting gear:

  • Hunting License and Permit: A valid hunting license and a small game permit are required to hunt squirrels. 
  •  Boots: Sturdy and comfortable boots are essential for walking and hiking in the woods.
  •  Game Bag: A bag or backpack to carry hunting gear and harvested squirrels.
  •  Binoculars: for scouting squirrel activity from a distance.
  •  Knife: A sharp knife is necessary for field dressing and skinning squirrels.
  •  Hunting Clothing: Camouflage clothing that matches the environment can help blend in and stay hidden from squirrels.
  •  Ammunition: Depending on your weapon of choice or bow used, appropriate ammunition or bolts are necessary for hunting squirrels.
  •  Map and Compass: A map and compass can help you navigate in the woods and find your way back to camp or your vehicle.

Safety Tips and Considerations

Following safe hunting practices and being aware of squirrel conservation efforts is essential when hunting in Iowa.

Since some squirrel species in the state are protected, understanding local regulations and conservation initiatives is crucial.

Final Word

The state has implemented several laws and regulations regarding the trapping and hunting of squirrels. It is up to you to understand these laws before heading to the woods. These laws are implemented to help keep you and other citizens safe.

You must possess a valid hunting license to hunt squirrels on public lands. Property owners can hunt on their land without a hunting license. 

If you’re new to hunting, I recommend visiting the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to learn about responsible hunting.

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