Pheasant hunting was always one of my favorite pastimes growing up. I was probably a little spoiled to be honest. I grew up in a perfect pheasant hunting area outside of Monticello, Iowa and my uncle, who I often hunted with, had a great bird dog we would take out. I remember hitting my limit hunting with my college friend and just how good slow cooked pheasant was (once you got the bird shot out). I bring all this up because we are officially back to bird season with opening weekend this Saturday, October 14th in Wisconsin, and rolling out over the next few weeks in Iowa and Illinois.

Credit: Jupiterimages
Credit: Jupiterimages

Each state has it's own rules and regulations for pheasant hunting, what you will need and what is allowed. Firstly, when pheasant hunting only the roosters can be harvested in Iowa and Illinois, whereas in Wisconsin they do allow for hens to be taken in certain areas. With that in mind, let's get prepped for another awesome season of bird hunting, so we can do it safely and have fun.

Pheasant Season in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the 2023 pheasant hunting season, set to run from October 14th, 2023, to January 7th, 2024. Hunters must possess a small game license and a 2023 Pheasant Stamp. Opening weekend (October 14th & 15th) has a special daily bag limit of one rooster, increasing to two roosters per day from October 16th onward. Special rules apply in designated hen and rooster hunting areas. Some properties have weekday closures starting October 16th. The DNR plans to release approximately 75,000 pheasants across 80 locations. Pheasants are released multiple times before and during the season. Hunters should consult the DNR's hunting regulations for precise details.

Once again, the Wisconsin DNR is reminding all hunters to wear blaze orange or pink for their own safety and to practice the acronym TAB-K:

  • T - Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • A - Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • B - Be certain of your target and what's beyond it.
  • K - Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
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In addition, Wisconsin hunters should be on the lookout for any sick birds. In the spring of 2022, a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in numerous domestic and wild birds throughout Wisconsin. It's expected that the virus will continue to circulate in wild bird populations this year. In general, upland birds such as pheasants have behaviors and prefer habitats that make them less likely to encounter avian influenza viruses in the wild. However, if you observe a sick pheasant, contact the DNR. Hunters should never harvest wild birds that appear sick, although this strain of HPAI does not pose a food safety risk. As always, hunters should still ensure the proper handling of game meat and harvested birds should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.

Young hunter with dog at sunset
Credit: juliazara

Pheasant Season in Iowa

Youth Pheasant season (age 15 or younger) has specific dates set for October 21st and 22nd, although Pheasant season for the state does not open up until Oct 28th and will run through January 10th, 2024. During regular season, hunters can bring in a daily limit of 3 birds, with a possession limit of 12. Shooting hours begin at 8am and end at 4:30pm. Unfortunately, this year's roadside survey by the DNR shows what could be a rough season in our area for pheasant hunting with poor game distribution in the Tri-State area.

Credit: Iowa DNR
Credit: Iowa DNR

To hunt pheasants in Iowa you will need a basic hunting license and a habitat sticker, as well as completing the hunter's safety course. This year I picked up a hunting, fishing, and habitat fee combo for $55. When deer season comes, I will simply purchase my tags to participate.

Additionally, Iowa requires upland game bird hunters to wear at least one of the following articles of visible, external apparel, of which at least 50% of the surface area is solid blaze orange in color: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, sweater, shirt or coveralls.

Common pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
Credit: MikeLane45

Pheasant Season in Illinois

The season in Illinois is split into two separated zones; North and South. Pheasant season for both zones begin on November 4th, but in zone 1 the season ends on January 8th, 2024 and in zone 2 the season ends on January 15th, 2024. Hunting pheasant here is allowed from sunrise to sunset. Stipulations are as follows: Hen pheasants are illegal to harvest or possess, except where allowed at sites offering controlled pheasant hunting of pen-raised birds. On the 2nd day of the hunting season, you may possess no more than twice the daily pheasant limit. Daily limit is 2 roosters with a possession limit of 6. Hunters will need a license and a state habitat stamp to participate in pheasant hunts. Dogs are legal to use for the entire upland bird hunting season statewide.


When hunting pheasant, a solid blaze orange or blaze pink cap/hat and an upper outer garment displaying at least 400 square inches of blaze orange or blaze pink material must be worn. Camo patterned blaze clothing is not allowed. More information on licenses, seasons, and regulations can be found 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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