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Iowa’s estimated pheasant harvest continues its climb and for the fifth year in a row has been higher than the previous year. In 2015, more than 56,000 hunters harvested nearly 270,000 rooster pheasants in Iowa, which is an increased harvest of 24 percent over 2014 and the highest pheasant harvest since 2009.
Pheasant hunters were not the only ones who had better hunting, quail hunters enjoyed their best hunting since 2007.
Hunters harvested an estimated 28,400 quail in 2015, which was a 165 percent increase over 2014. The large increase in quail harvest was predicted by the August roadside survey which counted the highest number of quail in 21 years.
“We expected to see more pheasants and quail harvested based on the August roadside survey and our current trend of mild winters,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Bogenschutz uses a population model that considers total winter snowfall, and spring rainfall and temperature data to estimate winter survival and nesting success, plus the annual August roadside survey that counts actual pheasants, quail, cottontail, jackrabbit and partridge staff see along the 218, 30 mile routes.
“We know, given certain snowfall and rainfall amounts, with a degree of certainty, how the upland populations are likely to react, based on 50 years of data. Given the mild winter and below normal rainfall, potential for upland birds looks good for the fall right now for the east central, southeast and south central regions. We had pheasant broods reported in early May in these regions which suggests a good nesting season.
“The western third had more rain and more snow so the potential looks less. Overall, our weather model is predicting a stable to increasing pheasant population statewide for the fall 2016 hunting season,” he said.
“Anecdotally, staff and landowners have been reporting more roosters crowing and male bobwhite calling across the southern third of Iowa this spring, which is a sign of good overwinter survival. The best predictor of the pheasant population will be this August when we conduct our roadside survey. But I like the direction the model is pointing.”
Habitat has remained stable
Iowa has enrolled all available acres in Gaining Ground and Pheasant Recovery Continuous CRP programs, with the potential for more acres being available this summer. The Iowa DNR has also expanded its popular Iowa Habitat and Access Program – IHAP for short – that provides cost share funding to help landowner with pheasant and quail habitat in exchange for allowing hunter access.