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Weather model forecasts bump in Iowa pheasant population

  • 6/20/2023 2:24:00 PM
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Favorable winter and spring weather across much of Iowa is expected to benefit pheasant hunters this fall.

Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said each summer, the DNR uses a model based on winter and spring weather conditions, previous weather data and more than 50 years of pheasant roadside population surveys to predict pheasant population trends for the fall.

“Given the statewide information, our weather model is predicting pheasant populations will likely be higher for the fall 2023 hunting season,” Bogenschutz said. “There will likely be regional differences given the tougher winter in northern regions and more favorable conditions in central and southern Iowa.”

Statewide, snowfall from December through March averaged one inch above average, but the northern third of Iowa, and the central region, saw significantly more snowfall, likely reducing hen survival in the northwest and northcentral regions where total winter snowfall exceeded three feet.

Conversely, the southern third of Iowa saw very little snowfall all winter, about one foot, and hen survival should be excellent in these regions. Southern Iowa’s mild winter will likely lead to higher quail numbers, too. 

“Even with the regional fluctuation, the best pheasant densities will likely still be in northern and western regions of the state,” he said.

Every model comes with a caveat and the spring nesting forecast is no different. This prediction is based on weather data and it can be wrong, Bogenschutz said. “The August roadside survey is the best gauge of what upland populations will be this fall.”

The August roadside survey is conducted each year between Aug. 1-15, over the same 218, 30-mile routes. Survey results will be posted online at around Sept. 15.