First off before unraveling the Iowa Hunting code set forth by the Iowa DNR, I think our local hunting community in Iowa is about the best way to actively conserve, steward, and maintain the beautiful countryside of Iowa. It's no secret that Iowa hunters are a big part of what makes Iowa conservation work so well.

Credit: Jupiterimages

Hunting is important to our local culture. About 253,000 people hunt in Iowa each year.
Those hunters support nearly 7,000 jobs in the state and generate over $227 million in salaries and wages. Additionally, Iowa hunters generate around $47.8 million in taxes for the state of Iowa and  $52 million in federal taxes. That's a lot of dimp!

Young hunter with dog at sunset
Credit: juliazara

I remember it was just plain old fun! I would take out my uncle's bird dog for a run on pheasants. Squirrel hunt with the Ehlers clan when I was just 8 years old with my Daisy BB-gun. And yes, freeze to death during 2nd shotgun season each year searching for deer. The hunt is always rewarding even when nothing was bagged. Now in each of these instances a specific set of regulations, and dates are in place. These "seasons" provide the optimal time to take any regulated game. However, some animals are game for harvesting year-round.

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For those of you avid hunters in the great state of Iowa we have only a few animals that you're actually allowed to harvest at any time. Some for fur. Some as nuisance control. And some are just plain old good eating. That being said...

Let's hop into Iowa's 5 animals for year-round hunting.

5) Raccoon- No Restriction / No Limit

Young raccoon stuck in a garbage
Credit: JillianCain
Trash pandas maybe cute, but they also make messes and can be down right nasty.

This one is fairly new to the list of animals with no restrictions and no limits. A fairly new bill was signed into law by Governor Reynolds and became effective on July 1st, 2023. It states that "a license is not required and landowners do not need to notify the DNR before shooting or trapping. While the raccoon season will be continuously open, during the time of year outside of the fur harvest season, only firearms, cage traps, or dog-proof traps are legal methods of take. During the fur harvest season, trappers may use other lawful traps normally allowed during the trapping season. Hunters or trappers pursuing raccoons on private land they do not own are required to have a valid fur harvester license." By the way, while they may look super cute, a wild angry sow-coon is about the scariest thing a 10-year-old farm kid can be attacked by.

Credit: tomrejzek

Limits were pulled on raccoons as populations have skyrocketed across the state. Reports in some areas saw the populations increase by 50% in a single year from 2019 to 2020. Additionally, population growth is spurred on by low investment returns, as pelt prices have dropped significantly from nearly $40 in the 70's, to under $5 today. If ever there was a time to hunt raccoons, it's now. Food for thought, I've never eaten raccoon before, but my grandfather always said they were greasy and not something you would readily eat. Of course, this guy totally disagrees and says dig in. Quick note though, Raccoons can be vectors for trichinosis and other pathogens. You need to handle the meat with care and cook it to an appropriate temperature before consumption.

4) Groundhog - No Restriction / No Limit

Credit: Louise Wightman How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
Credit: Louise Wightman
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Sorry...

I know. They're cute, pudgy, and furry. They are also destructive and nasty. Growing up on the farm I have had several run-ins with both raccoons and these fatty furballs. When one creates a huge dugout in your field or yard you will eventually have to deal with them, and in Iowa that is A-OK.

marmot, snow, burrow
Credit: serikbaib
Yes, seeing your shadow is grounds for being eaten.

Apparently, groundhog hunting isn't exactly a new thing either. Historically, people hunted them a lot in the 20th century. But for some reason, it's become all but dead in the last 15 years. It's most likely because they are considered pests, and not necessarily a food source. Mainly they are killed due to their destructive behavior towards structures and foundations. Hunting them helps manage their population. And apparently, they are yet again delicious. Ever wondered how to roast a groundhog?

By the way, if you undercook it, it's an additional 6 days of indigestion. Get it?

3) Pigeon - No Restrictions / No Limit

Urban pigeons closeup
Credit: Furtseff

The sport of pigeon hunting seems to be making quite the comeback in the Midwest. Let me preface this section by stating a pigeon is NOT a dove. Doves have a specific hunting season in Iowa, whereas pigeons can be taken at any time.

Getting wet
Credit: jamegaw
The bird on the left is a dove and has a specific season associated with its harvest.

Let me be the first to say we always shot the pigeons at our farm because they would relieve themselves all over our tractors. I always dubbed them rats of the sky, because of how nasty their perching habits were. It was my job to take the .410 out and deal with them each spring and summer when they would roost. That being said we never ate them. I never thought to. But apparently, they are a delicacy and are often served heavily in Asian cuisine. In fact, squab (a form of young pigeon) is tender, moist, and richer in taste than many commonly consumed poultry meats. Unfortunately, there is relatively little meat per bird, with the main concentration found in the breast.

2) Coyote - No Restrictions / No Limit

Coyote and Ring necked pheasant
Credit: Lynn_Bystrom

Pests, scavengers, and pet eaters. Coyote hunting serves multiple important purposes. Firstly, it aids in population control, helping to maintain balanced ecosystems by preventing overpopulation and curbing over-predation of other wildlife species. Additionally, it now plays a crucial role in livestock protection, reducing losses for farmers.

Credit: Squinch

In urban and suburban areas, hunting helps manage human-coyote conflicts, ensuring public safety and minimizing aggressive behavior from habituated individuals. Finally, coyote hunting provides a challenging and rewarding recreational pursuit for hunters, and allows for the sustainable utilization of resources, with hunters harvesting coyote fur and hides for various purposes. And because they can be harvested for fur you may wonder can they be eaten? Well, the short answer is a resounding yes. They can be gamey, so younger coyotes are recommended for consumption.

1) Feral Hogs - No Restrictions / No Limit

Wild Pigs A Growing Problem In Berlin
Credit: Getty Images

Ok here's one we can all get behind. I mean who doesn't like bacon!? Besides, feral hog hunting in Iowa is going to become a must as these animals are considered invasive and detrimental to the local ecosystem. In many cases, hunters are encouraged to remove feral hogs whenever they are encountered to help control their population.

I have chatted in detail about these super hogs and how they are extremely destructive to our natural habitats and are voracious eaters. They devour everything from vegetation to eggs and even other animals. Even worse females can give birth to 4 to 12 piglets up to twice a year. And these terrible, tusked tanks are extremely adaptable. It allows them to live in a wide range of habitats, with a territory covering about 10 square miles and even expanding up to 50 square miles when food is scarce.

curious wild boars
Credit: taviphoto

The only good thing about these hogs is that they are not yet readily found in the state. That's a good thing, as herds have now been spotted in Wisconsin and it's only a matter of time before farmers have to deal with wild pigs destroying farmland and local ecosystems. I will add one caveat here. Some conservationists don't want these hogs hunted because it makes them harder to eradicate as they become wary of human presence. Also, it's nice to note that these guys provide everything your domesticated pig does, so bona petite.

So how can I get my year-round hunting started in Iowa?

Simple, to hunt in Iowa resident and nonresident hunters born after January 1st, 1972, must complete a hunter education course to obtain a hunting license, with those aged 11 or older eligible to enroll. Upon successful completion, individuals receive a certificate of completion, valid from their 12th birthday. Hunters aged under 12 can obtain deer and turkey licenses but must be accompanied by a licensed adult. Additionally, all residents and nonresidents aged 16 and above require a valid Hunting License, payment of applicable fees, and possession of all required stamps while hunting. Get your Iowa hunt started here.

States with the most registered hunters

Stacker analyzed data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine which states have the most registered hunters. Read on to see how your state ranks on Stacker’s list.

Gallery Credit: Meagan Drillinger

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