The man who tracks pheasant numbers in the state is expecting a good season when hunters take to the fields this weekend.
DNR wildlife biologist Todd Bogenschutz says the roadside survey in August usually gives him a good idea of what to expect.
He says the counts were down a little bit statewide but for the most part most were about the same. Bogenschutz says last year saw the best harvest in a decade and that sets things up for a good fall hunt. Not all areas of the state are equal.
“South-central and south-east Iowa, the counts were down by 50 percent — so I think hunters in that part of the state are going to see lower bird numbers,” according to Bogenschutz. “But the rest of the state, the counts came in more or less unchanged, or down just slightly.”
There will be a lot of standing corn and beans this weekend and Bogenschutz says that could make it tougher to find birds.
He says the crops provide a big hiding place for the pheasants and the more crops the more the birds concentrate. Bogenschutz says the people who get out are going to get some birds. He says the conditions will change as the harvest progresses.
“Birds will figure out where the refuges are — but as soon as those fields are harvested — they are going to be available again,” He says. Bogenschutz suggests you make a second trip into areas where the crops were not out of the fields this weekend.
“I’d encourage hunters to go this weekend, it’s the opener, and you’ll shoot a bunch of birds. don’t overlook maybe three or four weeks into the season — because you may find birds that haven’t been been hunted yet once the crops start truly coming out,” Bogenschutz says.
Bogenschutz expects hunters to take around 200,000 pheasants. The August survey is nearly identical to 2008 when Iowa hunters harvested 400,000 roosters, but Bogenschutz says hunter numbers are lower.