Iowa’s pheasant hunters should expect to find a similar number of birds as last year, with the exception of south central and southeast Iowa, where the pheasant population decline was more significant.
Based on the August roadside survey, Iowa’s statewide average is 17 pheasants per 30 mile route, down from 21 per route last year.
“The survey shows a population similar to last year for most of the state and based on those results, pheasant hunters can expect 2019 to be a near repeat in most regions of 2018,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
He said hunters shouldn’t avoid hunting areas with lower counts, but rather focus on hunting the best available habitat. “Hunting areas where there’s good habitat next to a food source should increase the chance for success regardless of where you’re hunting in the state,” he said.
The 2019 roadside index is nearly identical to 2008, when hunters harvested almost 400,000 roosters.
“Unfortunately even though this year’s roadside index is the same as 2008, our pheasant harvest will only likely be 200,000 roosters rather than 400,000. Why? Because of the lack of pheasant hunters,” said Bogenschutz. “In 2008 we had 86,000 pheasant hunters, this fall we predict we’ll have 50,000 hunters – we have the bird population to harvest close to 400,000 birds, but we don’t have the hunters to harvest them.”
Iowa’s quail population was down 36 percent from last year. Iowa’s quail range is across the southern three tiers of counties.
The full report is available at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey. Iowa’s pheasant and quail seasons open Oct. 26.
Late winter, lousy spring hampers reproduction, opening day success
The two factors that determine Iowa’s pheasant population are weather and habitat. Iowa’s pheasant population dip is likely due to a combination of hen mortality from a late arriving cold and snowy winter followed by nesting failures from the cool spring and record setting rainfall in May.
That wet spring could pay benefits down the road to hunters who cannot get to the field until after opening day.
Farmers who faced significant planting delays in the spring will likely have a later than normal harvest. Hunters should expect to see standing crops when the season opens, making hunting more difficult early.