Pheasant rooster. (courtesy Iowa DNR)

As many as 70,000 hunters will hit Iowa’s fields and forests this morning for the start of pheasant season.

Todd Bogenschutz, a biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says it’ll be a challenging season ahead as the state’s pheasant numbers are falling.

“We are down again, unfortunately, particularly across the northern third of the state,” Bogenschutz says. Populations are unchanged or up slightly elsewhere but he says, “It’s still going to be a tough year to find birds.”

He says most pheasant hunting regulations remain the same compared to last year. One change is the new walk-in program for habitat access. Several properties have been signed up for this season covering some 1,400 acres.

They’re all listed on the D.N.R. website, www.dnr.gov.

Bogenschutz says hunters should know the rules of safety when hitting the field, like wearing blaze orange. “Be cognizant of where the other hunters are,” he says. “Set a plan if you’re hunting with a group and don’t deviate from it. Everybody be where they’re supposed to be. It’s a pheasant. It’s not worth getting shot over.”

The season runs through January 10th.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City