A survey by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows the number of pheasants taken this past season hit a record low for the second straight year. D.N.R. wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, says hunters took an estimated 238,000 pheasants compared to 270,000 birds shot last year. Bogenschutz says another record low was not a surprise.
He says based on the roadside counts from last year and the severe winter and spring flooding did not help nesting. Counts were down 30% for pheasants and 70% for quail, so a lower harvest was expected. Bogenschutz says weather is the main factor he sees in the continued decline of the number of bird harvested.
Bogenschutz if he looks at pheasant production in the years where the weather wasn’t so severe compared to the habitat acres, hunters should be taking 800,000 pheasants from the available habitat. “So a lot of our current decline is not so much habitat-related as weather-related,” Bogenschutz says. He says the decline in the pheasant population does have an economic impact on the state.
Bogenschutz says non-resident hunters are very mobile and there has been a shift of them to other states, like North and South Dakota and Kansas. He says there are only about 9,000 non-resident pheasant hunters in the state, where the state has had as many as 50,000 back in the 1990’s when pheasant numbers were good.
The state is in the process of creating a dove hunting season, and Bogenschutz says the lack of pheasants may make some hunters look to doves as an alternative. He says dove hunting may pick up the segment of the hunters who like it when the hunting is easy with good numbers of birds.
Bogenschutz those hunters will likely take up dove hunting, and could come back to pheasant hunting if there is a rebound in the pheasant count. Bogenschutz said hunters spent an average of nearly seven days hunting pheasants and averaged harvesting four birds.
Hunter success was highest through the first two weekends of the season, which was also the peak of participation.