They don’t get as much attention as pheasants and deer, but the hunting seasons are now underway for rabbits and squirrels in Iowa. DNR wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz , says there will be several thousand hunters seeking the animals during the season.
“Rabbit hunter numbers have been declining but actually when you look at the total people who participate in it — of our small game critters, birds and squirrels and such — we’ve had about 18,000 rabbit hunters last year. Not as many as the 50,000 pheasant hunters, but we had about 22,000 squirrel hunters,” Bogenschutz says.
The rabbits hunters are seeking are the same animals you may see in your backyard. “Cottontails, those are the most common, the only rabbit we have in the state. We do have a jackrabbit, but jackrabbits are almost extinct in this state,” he says. Cottontails were the only small game species to show an increase in the annual DNR survey. There were 5.2 on average, which was close to the 10-year and long-term averages.
The southern third of the state is the best area for rabbit hunting. “Where you get down there into pasture country where you have a lot of shrubby brushy cover and grass,” Bogenschutz says. “That’s where I send people. Our densities down there run somewhere between 10 and 15 a route, whereas if you come up here in central Iowa you see two to fours.”
The best advice for finding squirrels is “head east.” “Probably our most avid squirrel hunters are kind of that eastern third of the state along the Mississippi River. I’d said the southeast and northeast are probably the biggest draws — you know we’ve got the big blocks of timber there,” Bogenschutz says.
The cottontail season remains open until February 28. The daily bag limit is 10, and the possession limit is 20. Shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset. The squirrel season runs through January 31. The daily bag limit is 6 (fox and gray squirrels combined) and the possession limit is 12. There are no restrictions on shooting hours.
Find out more on the DNR’s website at: www.iowadnr.gov.