The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the number of pheasants shot by hunters increased 45-percent in 2012 after a record low year in 2011. DNR spokesman Willie Suchy says they expected an increase based on the roadside survey last August.

“We were very pleased last year to see a good nesting season and when we have good nesting seasons and good winters, the small game numbers like pheasants and quail respond. And we had an increase in harvest and an increase the number of hunters taking advantage of that,” Suchy says.

It’s estimated hunters shot 158,000 pheasants in 2012. That compares to 109,000 pheasants harvested in 2011 — which was the lowest number since the state began keeping track in 1962.

Suchy says the pheasant population has seemed to be stuck in a bad cycle that hasn’t allowed the birds to recover. “We’ve had bad winters and bad springs in the past, but the thing that has really happened over the last five or six years is that we’ve had a string of them together. Usually after two or three bad ones you get a couple three good ones, and we just haven’t had that. Last year was the first year that we did,” Suchy says.

“Unfortunately this year, we had a little bit snowier winter and then a wet spring, so we are not so optimistic going forward.” Pheasants weren’t the only game hunters had success with as Bobwhite quail, mourning dove, cottontail and squirrel harvest estimates increased as well.

“All small game kind so have the same sort of guiding things — habitat, weather — affect them,” Suchy says. He says better weather increases all their population numbers. Better animal numbers also led to a five-percent increase in the number of small game hunters last year.

The impact of this year’s snowy winter and wet spring will become more clear next week when the DNR conducts its annual roadside pheasant survey.