Wetland conditions improved ahead of the Oct. 2 opening day of Iowa’s duck season in the north zone. The most recent migration report shows an increase in the number of ducks that pushed into Iowa, thanks to a classic September weather change.

“The migrating birds are just beginning to arrive and we’re seeing a modest increase in number of ducks across the state,” said Orrin Jones, state waterfowl biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

Iowa offers hunters the opportunity to hunt in three different waterfowl hunting zones – north zone, central zone and south zone – and those zone boundaries are new this year.

“We made some significant changes to our zones so hunters will want to familiarize themselves with the new boundaries,” Jones said. 

Iowa’s duck hunters can expect to see good numbers of ducks this fall, but fewer young ducks will be part of the migration.

“Most of the breeding areas across the Continental U.S. experienced a significant drought this spring and that resulted in fewer hatched birds,” Jones said.

While the wetlands have improved since the teal season, Jones encourages hunters to scout to see the water conditions and duck use.

“We’re right in the changing of the season and with the new ducks arriving and the change in the wetlands condition, I would encourage the hunters to get out there and put eyes on it before the season begins,” he said.  

Iowa Waterfowl seasons

North Zone

Ducks, Mergansers, Coots: Oct. 2-8 and Oct. 16-Dec. 7

Geese: Sept 25-Oct. 10; Oct. 16-Dec. 7; Dec. 11-Jan. 8, 2022

Central Zone (including Jackson and Clinton counties)

Ducks, Mergansers, Coots: Oct. 9-15 and Oct. 23-Dec. 14

Geese: Oct. 2-17; Oct. 23-Dec. 14; Dec. 18-Jan. 15, 2022

South Zone

Ducks, Mergansers, Coots: Oct. 16-22 and Oct. 30-Dec. 21

Geese: Oct. 9-24; Oct. 30-Dec. 21; Dec. 25-Jan. 22, 2022

New boundaries established 

New waterfowl hunting zone boundaries have been implemented for the 2021 waterfowl hunting season and it is important that hunters carefully review the zone boundaries and season dates relative to their intended hunting location. The new boundaries may change which zone certain locations fall within. For example, Green Island WMA in Jackson County was historically included in the North Zone, but will now be in the Central Zone. Season dates differ between zones.

For the fall 2021 through spring 2026 seasons, the North Zone is that part of Iowa north of a line beginning on the South Dakota-Iowa border at Interstate 29, southeast along Interstate 29 to State Highway 20 to the Iowa-Illinois border. The South Zone is that part of Iowa west of Interstate 29 and south of State Highway 92 east to the Iowa-Illinois border. The Central Zone is the remainder of the state. 

DNR advising hunters to look for a change in HIP registration 

Beginning Dec. 15, 2021, when the 2022 hunting licenses go on sale, all hunters who pursue migratory game birds will be required to register for HIP either through the Go Outdoors Iowa app on their smartphone, through a link at www.iowadnr.gov/waterfowl or at www.gooutdoorsiowa.com. Migratory game birds mean more than ducks and geese; in Iowa it includes ducks, geese, coots, doves, woodcock, rails, and snipe.

Once registered, hunters will need to write a confirmation number on their license, print an updated copy of their license with the confirmation or take a screenshot of their confirmation on their phone to show proof of registration. Requiring a confirmation number will allow the DNR to better track migratory bird hunters – a federal requirement.

The change was necessitated because registering through license vendors at the time of purchase has been inconsistent.