Pheasant hunters can expect to have a little more success in Iowa this fall compared to recent years. The state’s annual August roadside pheasant count recorded the highest number of birds since 2008, with a statewide average of 17 birds for each 30-mile route. That compares to 7 birds on each route last year.
Todd Bogenschutz, an Upland Wildlife Biologist with the DNR, believes the pheasant population was actually up last year, but birds were missed in the roadside counts due to drought conditions not providing an accurate picture. “We looked at our hunter harvest this past year and it was also higher. Several hunters said there were more birds out there last year,” Bogenschutz says. “I think part of the increase we’re showing is there were more birds than what we counted last year.”
The survey suggests hunters could harvest more than 250,000 pheasants this year. Last year, a record low 40,000 hunters pursued pheasants in the state. Bogenschutz expects this year’s roadside count will encourage more hunters to take part in pheasant season. “Especially with many regions of the state reporting increases, I think we’ll see hunter numbers bounce up a little bit. I think as the word gets out, especially if some folks have some success early on, we’ll see a few more hunters,” Bogenschutz says.
One key to boosting pheasant numbers is increasing habitat. Bogenschutz says the DNR was recently awarded a $3 million grant from the USDA to expand the Iowa Habitat Access Program. “Folks interested in doing pheasant habitat should go our website and check that out. It’s targeted to put good winter cover, food, and nesting cover out there, so if you want to try and boost pheasant numbers, that’s a great program to check into,” Bogenschutz says.
Iowa’s youth pheasant hunting season is scheduled for October 18 and 19, while the regular pheasant season will run from October 25 to January 10, 2015.