Pheasant hunters, at least in some areas of the state, aren’t having much luck this year. Birds are finding plenty of cover thanks to the late harvest. A wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources expects hunters will have more chances to pull the trigger in the coming weeks.
Todd Bogenschutz says he went pheasant hunting on the season’s opening day, but didn’t see one bird across a 10 acre field full of standing corn. Last week, however, he hunted the same piece of land in south-central Iowa and flushed 26 hens and six roosters.
"Three-quarters of the corn around it was gone, so I think that standing corn impacted us on opening day for sure," Bogenschutz said. The Iowa corn harvest is nearing completion in the northern third of Iowa, but for the rest of the state, anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the corn is still standing in the field. Across much of eastern Iowa, progress on the corn harvest might not boost the pheasant harvest.
The population was hit hard by last year’s harsh winter and record flooding in the spring. "I think over in eastern Iowa, we can’t expect a lot even when the corn is out," Bogenshutz said. "We’re going to need a year or two for the birds to bounce back there." Bogenschutz says hunters may want to avoid hunting near rivers that flooded last summer and concentrate more on upland habitat, like wetlands, fencerows, terraces or any land in the Conservation Reserve Program.