State survey results show the number of pheasants taken by hunters last year dropped, and the projections for the upcoming fall season aren’t favorable for a turnaround. Surveys showed some 109,000 hunters took 630,000 pheasants in 2007 — a 16% decline from 2006, when hunters harvested nearly 750,000 roosters.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Todd Bogenschutz says the decline wasn’t surprising. Bogenschutz says he kind of expected the drop, but was hoping the numbers would stay near last year. He says the pheasant numbers in the annual roadside survey were down quite a bit in some areas, particularly southern Iowa.
Iowa still remains one of the top states for pheasants, but the numbers have been declining for several years. Bogenschutz says the numbers have been going down for about ten years as 80-thousand acres of crop reserve land was lost with changes in the farm bill, and there’s been some poor weather. He says in 1996 over 200-thousand hunters took one-and-a-half million pheasants.
Bogenschutz says we had a lot of snow this winter, followed by the spring rains, which won’t help push pheasant numbers back up. He says we lost a lot of hens this winter and we needed a good reproductive effort to minimize the losses, and we didn’t get it. Bogenschutz’s prediction is based on weather models.
Bogenschutz says the models have proven pretty accurate, hitting the population projections accurately eight years out of ten. He says the projections show a drop in bird numbers for this fall’s season, but he’s not sure by how much. Bogenschutz says they’ll get a better estimate of the impact when they run their annual roadside pheasant survey in August. The state estimates the 2006 economic impact of upland bird hunting in Iowa was almost 250-million dollars.