“For the third consecutive year, we’ve seen a harvest increase for pheasants,” according to Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the DNR. “It looks like it’s up 30-percent in 2014 to an estimated 216,000 roosters.”
The harvest estimate released this week is based on an annual survey of hunters following the season. The biggest factor in the growing pheasant population involves the fact that Iowa has experienced several consecutive mild winters.
“We went through an extended period where the winters were just brutal on the pheasant population,” Baskins said. “Once crops get harvested and we start getting snow on the ground, there really isn’t much habitat in a lot of places for pheasants to kind of escape the elements.”
Pheasants weren’t the only species to show a harvest increase in 2014. Hunters also killed more quail, rabbits, squirrels and doves. “We also saw a corresponding increase in the interest,” Baskins said. “Our total number of (small game) hunters was up 9-percent to more than 63,000 in 2014,” Baskins said.
DNR officials are predicting hunters will enjoy even bigger small game populations this coming fall and winter. The agency will get a better idea of the state’s population of pheasants, quail, rabbits and partridge during an annual roadside survey conducted over the first two weeks of August.