DNR wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, keeps track of the numbers from the survey routes. “Our pheasant numbers are basically unchanged. A slight downward trend, but probably not that hunters would notice. We averaged 24 birds a route last year, 21 birds this year, essentially the same,” Bogenschutz says.
Hunters took 270,000 pheasants last year in what was the best season in five years after several years of poor weather saw the pheasants available out in the fields go down. With bird numbers moving back up, the task is now to lure back the hunters who gave up after finding the numbers down.
“Yeah, that’s the real challenge for us, you know we had those really bad weather years from 2007 to 2012 and lost a lot of hunters. We’d like to see our hunter numbers bounce back up to around 100,000. We are right there around 50 to 60 now,” Bogenschutz says. “We think there’s fairly decent bird numbers out there now, so hunters should certainly get out there and try to take use of them.” He says Iowa winters are unpredictable and hunters should take advantage of the better odds for success.
“One bad winter and a lot of them could be gone. I just want to let hunters know our numbers are looking pretty good again,” Bogenschutz says. Bogenschutz says the number of birds taken could increase dramatically if more hunters decided to get out their guns. He says survey numbers this year are similar to 2007 when 100,000 hunters went out and they took 630,000 roosters. Bogenschutz says it’s a good time to introduce new hunters to the sport.
“Certainly with improved bird numbers it would be a good time to take kids out…there’s more opportunity to see birds,” Bogenschutz says. He says the overall upland game populations in general are looking pretty good. There’ve been some heavy rains and flooding recently, buy he says they shouldn’t be a concern for pheasants.
Bogenschutz says the nesting season is pretty much over, so the birds should be able to handle the wet weather. You can find out where the most birds were seen during the August roadside survey on the DNR’s website at: www.iowadnr.gov.
The pheasant season opens October 29th.
Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR