Pheasant hunters in some areas of Iowa are reporting “better-than-expected hunts,” according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The pheasant season runs through this Friday (January 10).
Todd Bogenschutz is an upland wildlife research biologist for the DNR. He says, coming into the season, pheasant numbers were forecast to be down 18-percent compared to last year. “I’m getting some reports from over in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area that they’re seeing bird numbers similar to what they saw a year ago,” Bogenschutz says. “The northwest quarter of the state is probably where our best densities are.” Hunters are having the best luck finding pheasants where well-managed habitat is present, according to Bogenschutz.
Landowners can provide good winter cover and nesting habitat for pheasants by participating in Iowa’s new Pheasant Recovery CRP program. “Unfortunately, (the program) is shutdown now until (Congress) passes a Farm Bill,” Bogenschutz says. “Hopefully, they’ll pass a Farm Bill (this week) and we can start accepting applications for that program again in the spring.”
Hunters shot roughly 158,000 pheasants in Iowa last year. The decline in Iowa’s pheasant population is blamed, in large part, on the weather. Iowa has experienced harsh winters, followed by wet springs in six of the last seven years. Bogenschutz is hopeful bird numbers will rise, as he says the weather — so far this winter — hasn’t been too bad. “People are seeing bird numbers similar to 2012, so if we have a good spring, we might see populations finally move up again,” Bogenschutz says. Two years ago, in 2011, just 109,000 pheasants were harvested in Iowa – the lowest number since the state began keeping track in 1962.