DNR research biologist, Todd Bogenschutz says it is nice to see the pheasant recovery continue. “Statewide we were just shy of 270,000. So, a nice bump from the year before. I was hoping it was going to be a little bit higher,” Bogenschutz says.
The harvest is up 24 percent from 2014 and it’s the highest since 2009. Bogenschutz says they expected to see the numbers based on the roadside surveys they do every August. “Hunters basically confirmed what we saw on the roadside counts, so I think there were a lot of happy folks last fall.”
Heavy snows and wet spring weather had devastated the pheasant population, and it has been a slow build back up. Bogenschutz says the conditions are right to see another increase.
“We had a really decent winter last year and pretty decent conditions during nesting and we’re seeing kind of the same pattern repeat itself this year. So, we’re’re looking at increases again this year, just like we saw last year, we hope,” Bogenschutz says.
Habitat has been another issue that’s impacted the pheasant population. Bogenschutz says the land that’s put into the Conservation Reserve Program really makes a difference. He says some of the acres were lost when corn prices went up, but he says there have been some continuous CRP programs that have done well and there are still landowners who want to get in. He says those acres should show some good results in the next couple of years.
While the pheasant population has rebounded, Bogenschutz doesn’t think it is all the way back yet. “Well, I think we’ve still got to build a little bit more,” according to Bogenschutz, “certainly they are going in the right direction. He says the roadside count was around 24 birds a route and he says if we want to get back to the hey day of the 80s, those numbers need to be up around 40.
He says it will be tough with the habitat situation to get up to 40 birds a route, and he says previous highs for the harvest are a long way off. Surveys back in the early 1960s had hunters shooting around two million pheasants.
Bogenschutz will conduct a new pheasant survey in August of this year to determine the outlook for the next season.