The latest statewide pheasant count is a little like the most recent business outlooks — things haven’t gotten a lot worse — but they haven’t gotten a lot better either. Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, compiled the pheasant numbers from spotters who drove more than 200 routes throughout the state.
Bogenschutz says there was a little bit of a drop in the bird numbers, but statistically there was no change from last year’s numbers. He says last year there were about 18birds per route and this year there were 16, so overall there was not much change. He says the bird numbers did vary regionally.
Generally the farther north the spotters went, the fewer ringnecks they saw. He says the northern third of Iowa saw declines in bird numbers, but there were increasing trends across the southern two-thirds of the state. “I think that relates back just to the northern third had the most snow last winter,” Bogenschutz says. He says the temperatures were also cooler in the northern third. Temperatures were cool throughout the spring and early summer with an all-time record low average in July. Bogenschutz says that’s not the best time for the birds to face those types of temperatures.
Bogenschutz says the time between April and July are probably the most critical as the birds make their first and second nests and the chicks are on the ground. He says there was also a lot of rain around the peak of the hatch in June, which didn’t help the chicks popping out of eggs.
Hunters took 383,000 pheasants in 2008 — a record low — and Bogenschutz says this survey shows another season with about the same numbers. He says that’s a positive compared to what he’s seen in other states.
“You know hunters still aren’t gonna be super happy with the birds we’re seeing, but I’m happy we didn’t see larger declines,” Bogenschutz says, “the Dakotas and Minnesota are all posting 25 to 40-percent drops in their (pheasant) populations” He says the cool weather and snowy winter impacted the other states as well, “So I was happy with what we’re seeing.” Bogenschutz says the birds do have the ability to make a big comeback in the next year.
He says the population could increase by half or even double with good weather, and he says they’ve seen an increase of 125% before, so the potential is there. Hunters had taken 630,000 birds in 2007 and 750,000 in 2006, before the drop down last year. You can find out more about the pheasant harvest on the D.N.R.’s website .