Iowa pheasant hunters may have fewer targets when the next season rolls around. Due to the cold, snowy winter and the wet spring, forecast models predict much of Iowa will see the pheasant population stagnate or fall. Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says some parts of the state may see a boost in the bird numbers, while other areas will drop.

“The patterns we’re seeing aren’t necessarily uniform across the state,” Bogenschutz says. “The western third of the state really was fairly mild this winter compared to the rest of the state and actually, they didn’t have as much rain in that part of the state during nesting either, compared to the rest of the state.” The nesting forecast will be updated with the DNR’s August roadside survey, which he says is the best gauge of what pheasant hunters can expect to find in the fall.

Despite the weather, Bogenschutz says he’s encouraged by passage of the new Farm Bill and actions earlier this week to boost preservation of pheasant habitat with landowners enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. “Monday, the USDA began taking CRP sign-ups under the continuous program,” he says. “We have a new pheasant recovery practice under the continuing CRP. They refer to it as SAFE, State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement.”

With high commodity prices and the growing demand for ethanol, Bogenschutz says many farmers have been converting former grassland bird habitats to farm fields. The DNR says hunters shot roughly 158,000 pheasants in Iowa last year. Back in 2011, about 109,000 pheasants were harvested in Iowa, the lowest number since the state began keeping track in 1962.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)