The annual statewide roadside survey will start next week, giving the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and hunters, vital data about the health of populations of wild game, like pheasants.

Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife biologist with the DNR, says the official counters will literally be driving down the road on designated routes, watching for game birds and rabbits. “The roadside survey is our one annual survey where we get an index of what our upland game populations are doing, pheasants, quail, cottontails, and any jackrabbits we may see,” Bogenschutz says. “We count all of them if we see them on the routes.”

Those routes cover the entire state. “We drive about 6,000 miles that first two weeks in August to come up with a tally,” he says. “That’s basically our best information about what the populations are doing and we can compare it to the counts last year and it gives us a really good trend indicator, whether the populations are up or down.”

Bogenschutz says the numbers from the survey in 2018 were quite positive. “Last year, the counts were up and we got the harvest from this last year, probably the best harvest we’ve seen of pheasants and quail in almost a decade,” Bogenschutz says. “Hunters did really well. The survey indicated things were up. Folks were pretty happy this past hunting season.”

There is some anticipation the pheasant population will have fallen this year, given the cold snowy winter and the wet spring, with an especially rainy May — when pheasants are nesting. The survey will be conducted August 1st through 15th.

The results will be posted on the Iowa DNR website September 10th. Pheasant hunting season in Iowa begins October 26th.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)