Pheasant hunters harvested nearly 300,000 roosters in Iowa during the 2020 season, which was the second highest harvest reported in more than a decade. In 2019, hunters harvested nearly 284,000 roosters.
“The 2020 roadside survey showed our pheasant population was 18 percent higher than in 2019, so an increased harvest was expected,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Part of the increased harvest was due to the increase in pheasant hunters – 10,000 more hunters compared to 2019 – which was the highest since 2009. COVID was likely a major factor in that increase.”
Hunters in northwest, northeast, west-central, central and east-central Iowa reported good hunting success with more than 20,000 roosters harvested in each region.
Conversely, Iowa’s quail harvest saw decline. Hunters harvested an estimated 17,500 quail last year, which was a decline of 16 percent from 2019. The quail harvest decrease was also expected based on the August roadside survey that found the population was 11 percent lower than 2019.
The harvest and participation estimates are based on the results of a random survey of licensed hunters following the 2020-21 hunting season.
The survey estimated hunters harvested more than 75,200 rabbits; more than 76,600 squirrels; and more than 81,700 mourning doves.
The Iowa DNR will begin the process of conducting its annual survey of upland game. The August roadside survey covers more than 6,500 miles of routes driven on gravel roads at dawn on mornings with heavy dew. Hen pheasants will move their broods to the edge of the gravel road to dry off before they begin feeding, which makes them easier to count. The statewide survey takes place between Aug. 1-15.
The August roadside survey has been conducted over the same routes since 1962. In addition to pheasants and quail, the survey collects data on partridge, cottontails and jackrabbits. Results will be posted online at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey by Sept. 10. Iowa’s pheasant season begins Oct. 30.