Iowa's pheasant counts are looking stable to solid, and it should be a good year for Hawkeye state rooster hunting.
By Tom Carpenter
“April and May turned out wetter and cooler than normal,” reports Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Game Biologist/Farm Bill Coordinator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). “But in June, July and August the state went into drought mode. It’s likely that the wet and damp weather early on impacted some nests and chick survival.”
“However, staff and landowners were reporting a good number of brood sightings during late summer,” adds Bogenschutz.
Before we get into discussing Iowa’s annual and much anticipated roadside pheasant survey, Bogenschutz makes an important note:
“Dry weather – which means poor dew – led to poor counting conditions during our annual roadside counts. I believe the roadside count is inaccurate this year, and bird numbers are better than indicated by the survey,” states Bogenschutz.
“If this year’s roadside counts are adjusted to correct for the poor dew conditions experienced, this year’s statewide pheasant index is actually about 20.5 birds per route rather than the 14.9 indicated by the survey,” says Bogenschutz.
“We had a good -- meaning mild -- winter across much of the state, but kind of a crappy spring. They kind of cancelled each other out,” says Bogenschutz. “That means our population is more or less status quo from last year.” And it was a good pheasant hunt overall in Iowa in 2016.
“Staff and landowners were reporting a good number of brood sightings during late summer,” adds Bogenschutz.
The following map shows the swath of pheasant country that is best in Iowa:
The Northwest had the state’s highest counts, at 26 birds/route. The central region was solid at 24 birds/route. The Southeast was decent at 16 birds/route. The table below tells the population story:
Crops are always a concern. “Crop conditions are excellent in Iowa as of early September,” says Bogrenschutz. “If dry conditions continue, most of the crops should be out of the field by our opener October 28, which always improves hunter success.”
Iowa Hunting Notes
*“Our online hunting atlas is a good resource for those looking to hunt public land, or some of our productive walk-in areas (IHAP
),” says Bogenschutz.
*“About 70% of our rooster harvest occurs before December 1,” says Bogenschutz. “So early can be better than later in the season.” But part of the equation is lower hunting pressure later.
*“Folks hoping to hunt private land without any existing contacts lined up beforehand should avoid the first weekend or two,” says Bogenschutz.”Chances at access will be better after family and friends have hunted.”
2017 Iowa August Roadside Survey
Iowa Hunting Atlas
Tom Carpenter is Digital Content Manager for Pheasants Forever.