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Rabbit & Squirrel Seasons


Life Member
Rabbit, Squirrel Seasons Open Sept. 3

The 2011-12 hunting seasons for cottontail rabbits and squirrels (fox and gray) open Sept. 3.

Cottontail Rabbits

Based on the DNR’s August roadside survey of upland game, southern Iowa has the highest rabbit numbers heading into fall, but hunters pursuing cottontails will likely find fewer across the state than last year.

Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the likely cause for the decline in rabbit numbers was persistent snow cover this past winter statewide reduced the winter survival.

For those hunters who are pursuing rabbits, the most effective techniques are stomping brush piles, walking slowly through abandoned farmsteads or along brushy fencerows, or wooded draws.

“The best form of rabbit hunting is done with the companionship of one or more beagles,” Bogenschutz said. “Beagles and other trailing dogs can increase your success and improve the quality of the hunt.”

The cottontail season remains open until February 28, 2012, the daily bag limit is 10, and the possession limit is 20. Shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset. Hunters can view the roadside counts of cottontails in early September on the DNR’s website at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/PheasantSmallGame/AugustRoadsideSurveyData.aspx.


Iowa’s squirrel numbers should be similar-to-slightly-better than last year, although squirrel numbers are hard to estimate because the DNR does not survey the population.

Squirrel populations typically peak following good mast years, and last fall there was an excellent mast crop across Iowa for red oaks, but poor mast crop for white oaks.

“Shagbark hickory and walnut mast production was average. Oaks and hickories produced an average to poor crop in the fall of 2009, so this last fall was a positive change in hard mast production in Iowa’s woodlands,” said Todd Gosselink, forest wildlife biologist for the DNR.

Iowa’s mix of agriculture and woods make excellent habitat and provide plentiful waste grain for squirrels during the non-growing seasons. “Squirrel numbers should be good for this year’s fall hunting season,” Gosselink said.

Fox squirrels can be found anywhere there are a few acres of trees, but gray squirrels are generally limited to the heavily forested areas in eastern and southern Iowa.

Squirrel hunting is best done in one of two ways, said Gosselink. “The sit-and-wait technique is used near likely feeding areas such as beneath oak, walnut, or hickory trees or along corn-forest edges. The still-hunting technique is employed by slowly walking through forested areas and stopping frequently to watch for feeding squirrels. The best hunting times usually are during the morning and afternoon feeding hours,” Gosselink said.

Hunting opportunities for squirrels are excellent because hunting pressure is low, Gosselink said. Last fall, an estimated 23,440 squirrel hunters harvested 119,590 squirrels in Iowa.

The squirrel season opens September 3 and extends through January 31, 2012. The daily bag limit is 6 (fox and gray squirrels combined) and the possession limit is 12. There is no restriction on shooting hours.

The content for this post came from the Iowa DNR website.
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