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Pheasant hunters harvested nearly 284,000 roosters in Iowa during the 2019 season, which was the second highest harvest in the last decade. In 2018, hunters harvested an estimated 320,000 roosters.
“The 2019 roadside survey showed our pheasant population was 17 percent lower than in 2018, so a reduced harvest was expected. We did see a higher success rate at the end of the season which wasn’t unexpected given Iowa’s late crop harvest last fall made hunting early in the season difficult,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The harvest and participation estimates are based on the results of a random survey of licensed hunters following the 2019-20 hunting season.
Iowa’s quail harvest followed the same trend. Hunters harvested an estimated 20,710 quail last year. The 2019 roadside counts showed quail numbers were 36 percent lower than 2018 counts, so the lower hunter numbers and harvest, in 2019, was expected.
“The winter of 2018-19 was a tough one for quail in Iowa, with significant winter mortality. However, the winter of 2019-20 was relatively mild and Iowa should see a bump in quail numbers this fall,” Bogenschutz said.
The survey estimated hunters harvested 54,000 rabbits, nearly 89,000 squirrels and nearly 85,000 doves.
The Iowa DNR is in the process of conducting its annual survey of upland game. The August roadside survey covers more than 6,500 miles of routes driven on gravel roads at dawn on mornings with heavy dew. Hen pheasants will move their broods to the edge of the gravel road to dry off before they begin feeding, which makes them easier to count. The statewide survey takes place between Aug. 1-15.
The August roadside survey has been conducted over the same routes since 1962. In addition to pheasants and quail, the survey collects data on partridge, cottontails and jackrabbits. Results will be posted online at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey by Sept. 10. Iowa’s pheasant season begins Oct. 31.