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Iowa’s pheasant population is up, the crop harvest is advancing quickly and the weekend weather forecast is setting up for an excellent opening weekend for Iowa’s pheasant season.
The annual August roadside survey found Iowa’s statewide pheasant population to be nearly 23 birds per route; a 15 percent increase over 2022. The biggest increases were in the southwest, northwest and northeast regions.
“We couldn’t ask for better opening weekend conditions,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Our bird population is highest since 2015, and much of the corn and soybeans will be harvested by the time the season opens. Combine those two factors, plus cooler weekend temperatures, we should see a lot of pheasants taken.”
Based on the August roadside survey, Iowa hunters can expect to harvest 300,000 to 400,000 roosters this year, which is similar to the past two years, when the harvest was the highest in more than a decade.
Bogenschutz estimates around 50,000 hunters will be out this weekend, but there is room for more.
“This would be a great time to invite a friend to spend a weekend in the field to experience pheasant hunting, or to take the kids and pass along our pheasant hunting tradition to the next generation,” he said.
Something to note, he said, is that portions of Iowa impacted by the drought were opened to haying CRP and it would be advised for hunters to scout the area they plan to hunt prior to the season.
Quail season also opens this weekend and fall covey counts indicate the population could be a little better than last year. Quail hunting is primarily across the southern two tiers of counties.
Iowa Pheasant Season
Iowa’s pheasant season is Oct. 28 to Jan. 10, 2024. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. The daily bag limit is three roosters, with a possession limit of 12.
Iowa’s quail season is Oct. 28 to Jan. 31, 2024. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. The daily bag limit is eight quail of either sex, with a possession limit of 16.
Hunters are required to wear at least one article of external clothing with at least 50 percent of its surface area solid blaze orange: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls. The same blaze orange rule applies while hunting quail, gray partridge and ruffed grouse.
If hunting on public land that requires nontoxic shot, hunters are encouraged to plan ahead to pick up shells.
Online Hunting Atlas offers places to go
Iowa hunters have been using the interactive Iowa hunting atlas to find new places to go hunting. The hunting atlas features more than 680,000 acres of public hunting land that is owned by the state, county or federal governments. It’s available online at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting.
This tool allows hunters to see which zone the public area is in, type of shot allowed, wildlife likely to be found and get an overhead look at the terrain. The mobile version of the atlas will show hunter location on the area if granted permission.
The atlas view from above allows hunters to zoom in on an area, see how to get there, the lay of the land and where one parcel of public hunting land is in relation to others and print off maps.
Information is updated as public hunting lands are acquired.
The hunting atlas also includes private land enrolled in the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP) where private landowners receive assistance to improve habitat on their land in exchange for opening the property for hunter access.
Site maps are available at www.iowadnr.gov/ihap showing boundaries and which species would be most likely attracted to the habitat. Walk-in public hunting through IHAP is available between September 1 and May 31.