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Last year, Iowa pheasant hunters bagged more roosters than they had in the last decade. With that fresh in their memory, how will the 2019 pheasant season measure up?
It will be about the same, said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Iowa’s pheasant population is similar to last year, except in south central and southeast Iowa, where bird numbers are down significantly after a late arriving winter and cool rainy spring. While the population is down slightly, overall Bogenschutz expects the 2019 pheasant season to be a good one.
“I think the biggest hurdle for pheasant hunters on opening weekend will be amount of crops still in the field. We will see some birds harvested this weekend, but it will likely be more difficult,” he said. “But I think the potential is there for us to have another good year hunting pheasants.”
The 2019 August roadside survey is nearly identical to 2008 when Iowa hunters harvested 400,000 roosters. “We have a pheasant population to support a harvest of 400,000 birds, but our lower hunter numbers will likely produce a harvest of closer to 200,000 birds,” he said.
Hunters who prefer to hunt later in the year may benefit from the later harvest, Bogenschutz said.
“There is a segment of our pheasant hunters who only hunt the first two weekends of the season so hunters who like to hunt later could find a population of birds that had been using the standing corn as a refuge. As those fields come out, they could see some really good late season hunting,” he said.
The one-two combination of a bad winter and wet cool spring hit the quail population to the tune of a 36 percent decline. After riding a few years of 30-year high, Iowa’s quail population dropped closer to the 10-year average, which is still pretty good, Bogenschutz said. Iowa’s quail range is across the southern three tiers of counties.
“There’s definitely quail out there but not as abundant as the past few years,” he said.
With weekend temperatures in the low to mid 60s, hunters will need to dress in layers and make sure that they – and the dogs - are well hydrated.
Iowa’s annual August roadside survey is online at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Pheasant-Small-Game. Iowa’s pheasant and quail seasons begin Oct. 26.