Pheasant hunter. (DNR photo)

Pheasant hunters will likely face another frustrating year in Iowa. Kevin Baskins, spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says a statewide survey has found the pheasant population at an all-time low.

“We did see slight upticks in the southern part of the state, but not enough to offset the lower numbers we saw in the north,” Baskins said. “We’re seeing our lowest pheasant count ever in the state of Iowa.”

The D.N.R.’s roadside survey found an average of 7 birds counted for each 30 miles of route driven. That compares to 11 birds per route last year.

The dwindling pheasant population is blamed primarily on five consecutive winters of above average snowfall. Baskins says the snow takes away the needed habitat for the birds’ survival. A series of cold and wet springs have also hurt Iowa’s pheasant numbers. Baskins says the weather pattern appears to be the “new reality” and the DNR may need to take steps to increase the pheasant population.

“That’s something I think we’re looking at…what other kind of strategies we might put out on the landscape that might help pheasant survival during the winter and encourage greater survival of chicks during the nesting season,” Baskins said. Iowa’s not alone in it’s plight.

The South Dakota pheasant population is down 46%, Minnesota is down 64% and Nebraska counted 20% fewer birds than last year. Iowa’s 2011 pheasant hunting season runs from October 29 through January 10, 2012.