The pheasant harvest in Iowa dropped by 60,000 birds last year and state officials are blaming a combination of loss of habitat and weather conditions. Todd Bogenschutz with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the numbers have been steadily declining since the 1997 Farm Bill placed more Conservation Reserve Program land back into crop production.
He says the population has been adjusting to that loss in habitat, while also trying to recover from a harsh winter in 2001. In the last decade, Iowa’s annual pheasant harvest has only eclipsed the one million mark twice. "Right now, we probably still have the habitat to have a million bird harvest," Bogenschutz says, "but mother nature and the planets just haven’t lined up to get the birds to bounce up that high."
Iowa is still a popular state for pheasant hunters, but the drop in birds has also led to a decrease in hunting activity. "This past year, we had 119,000 pheasant hunters," Bogenschutz says, "ten years ago we had over 200,000." He adds the number of people coming from out of state to hunt pheasants in Iowa has dropped from 50,000 ten years ago to 27,000 in 2006. Bogenschutz says the decline in hunters means fewer dollars are being spent in the state, especially in rural Iowa.