The man who oversees the annual DNR roadside pheasant survey says the numbers taken last month showed a 30% decline in pheasant population — but that doesn’t match all the other information that’s come in on the popular game bird.
DNR Wildlife biologist Todd Bogenschutz says the disparity in reports is simply a matter of the weather conditions. “Much of Iowa was in a major drought. And we need good dew to have good counts or the birds don’t come to the roadsides. And it’s hard to have good dew when you are in a drought,” Bogenschutz explains.
He says those conducting the survey drive set routes counting the number of birds they see. “The dew is important because pheasants just kind of hate to be wet early in the morning — especially with younger broods — and so the hens will bring them to the roadsides first thing at sunrise and they’ll just basically loaf on the edge of the roads just waiting for things to dry off before the start of the day’s activities,” according to Bogenschutz.
He says there have are not many times where the numbers in the survey don’t give a true picture, but it does happen. He says research at Iowa State University in the 1950s when the survey was standardized showed that bird counts were 33 percent higher with a heavy dew versus a moderate dew. Bogenschutz says less than half of the survey routes reported a heavy dew this year. He says everything they’d been hearing about pheasant numbers up to the survey had been pretty good.
He says they had lots of reports of good pheasant broods out there and he says there was a good winter with a wet spring that indicated the pheasant numbers should be about the same as last year. Bogenschutz says hunters should have no trouble finding pheasants
based on the reports they’ve heard, and the hunt should be similar to last year. Hunters shot about 250,0000 roosters last year. The pheasant season begins October 28th.