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02/27/2015 @ 10:46 AM

Rabbit, Squirrel Hunting Seasons Open Aug. 30


DES MOINES - The 2008-09 hunting seasons for cottontail rabbits and fox and gray squirrels will open on August 30. Cottontail rabbit numbers are up about 50 percent from last year, and roadside surveys found the population generally increased across the western two-thirds of Iowa, while it declined in the eastern third.

Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the DNR, said heavy snowfall this past winter likely reduced the number of does for breeding in eastern Iowa. Research has shown female reproduction improves with wet summer conditions that improve the quality of green vegetation for food and cover.

The DNR’s roadside survey indicates the southern and western portions of Iowa will offer the best rabbit numbers this fall. According to Bogenschutz, there are several effective techniques that may be employed to hunt rabbits including 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, says Bogenschutz. “Beagles and other trailing dogs can increase your success and improve the quality of the hunt,” Bogenschutz said.
The cottontail season remains open until February 28, 2009, the daily bag limit is 10, and the possession limit is 20. Shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset. Hunters can view the DNR’s roadside counts of cottontails in early September on the DNR’s website at http://www.iowadnr.gov/wildlife/files/upindex.html

“Squirrel numbers are hard to estimate because we do not survey our squirrel populations, but statewide numbers should be similar to last year,” said Todd Gosselink, forest wildlife research biologist for the DNR. “Squirrel populations typically peak following good mast years and last fall we had an average to poor mast crop across Iowa. Red oaks produced a fair crop, but almost no white oaks produced a crop, with a poor hickory crop. However, it was a good walnut crop this past fall.”

Fortunately, Iowa’s mix of agriculture and woods make an excellent habitat mix for wildlife, and provide plentiful waste grain for squirrels during the non-growing seasons. So squirrels should be maintained at good numbers.

Hunting opportunities for squirrels are excellent in Iowa because hunting pressure is low, says Gosselink. In the early 1960s Iowa had 150,000 squirrel hunters and a harvest of more than 1 million squirrels, compared to last fall where an estimated 23,160 squirrel hunters harvested 169,478 squirrels in the Iowa.

Although forested habitat for squirrels has increased in the state over the last 30 years interest in the sport has declined. Gosselink attributes this decline to more opportunity to hunt other species, like turkey and deer, and the decline in Iowa’s rural population.
The squirrel season extends through January 31, 2009, the daily bag limit is 6 (fox and gray squirrels combined) and the possession limit is 12. There is no restriction on shooting hours. 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: the sit-and-wait technique and the still-hunting technique. The sit-and-wait technique is used near likely feeding areas such as beneath oak, walnut, or hickory trees or 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, said Gosselink.

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