BOONE – An estimated 58,000 hunters will crisscross the countryside pursuing Iowa ring-necks when the season opens on Oct. 29.
While Iowa pheasant numbers statewide are down from 2010, the northwest, central and north central regions offer the highest population of birds based on the August roadside survey. The survey counted more pheasants in southwest, east central and south central than 2010, but the numbers were only marginally higher.
“We estimate a harvest of 150,000 to 200,000 birds this fall based on the August roadside survey,” forecasts Todd Bogenschutz, upland research biologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “About 30 percent of our harvest is in the first nine days of the season. That’s a lot of activity spread over those first two weekends.”
Barring any rain or grain storage issues, most of the remaining crops should be out of the field by opening day which will concentrate the birds more, in areas of good cover and hunters who walk through those areas should see birds.
“Concentrate on those core habitat areas; the areas with exceptional habitat; a lot of our public land and those CRP fields, with good switchgrass and other native plantings,” suggests Bogenschutz. “You get into the marginal areas; fence lines, streams, brome grass, the birds are not going to be plentiful.”
The Iowa pheasant population has fallen to a new all-time low with a statewide average of 7 birds counted for each 30 mile route driven, after a fifth winter in a row with above normal snowfall, followed by a wet nesting season.
This drop in pheasant numbers is not restricted to Iowa. South Dakota pheasant population is down 46 percent; Minnesota was down 64 percent, North Dakota was down 36 percent and Nebraska counted 20 percent fewer birds than last year.
The 2011 pheasant hunting season runs from October 29 through January 10, 2012. Shooting hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Daily bag limit is three rooster pheasants, with a possession limit of 12.
MEDIA CONTACT: Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-432-2823.