Pheasant hunting season opens tomorrow in Iowa, but hunters may not see many birds. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports pheasant numbers could be down 18-percent compared to last year.
Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife biologist with the DNR, says the population decline isn’t surprising. “We had the wettest April and May in state history and hens don’t do very well when it’s wet in the spring, certainly not when it’s record setting,” Bogenschutz says.
Five consecutive harsh winters followed by wet springs previously led to a drop in pheasant numbers between 2007-2011. Bogenschutz expects the forecast for another decline this year could lead to fewer pheasant hunting licenses being purchased. “We finally had an increase in the pheasant population last year for the first time in about five years and we saw a little bump up in hunter numbers. Now, things drop down a bit…so, I expect we’ll see fewer hunters,” Bogenschutz says. “I still think we’ll be similar, we’ll probably have around 40,000 to 50,000 pheasant hunters this year.”
The pheasant hunting season runs from October 26 through January 10. Bogenschutz predicts hunters will harvest between 100,000 to 150,000 pheasants this season. He notes hunters will likely have better luck later in the season as nearly half of the state’s corn crop has yet to be harvested.) “Standing corn on opening weekend…there’s going to be quite a bit of it and that’s going to make hunting challenging because the birds figure out pretty quick that they’re safe in that standing corn,” Bogenschutz says.
The best pheasant numbers, according to Bogenschutz, can be found in areas of northwest, north-central, and central Iowa. Hunters shot roughly 158,000 pheasants last year. That compares to 109,000 pheasants harvested in 2011 – which was the lowest number since the state began keeping track in 1962.