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Iowa’s 2022 pheasant season is expected to be another good one when more than 60,000 plus blaze orange clad hunters take to the fields on Oct. 29. And based on the results of the August pheasant survey, hunters can afford to be optimistic.
“Our bird numbers are similar to last year so that should make some folks pretty happy,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “I think we’re set up for a good hunting year for pheasants, especially in northwest, west central and north central regions. Central too. Quail is also looking good in southwest and south-central Iowa.”
The annual August roadside survey found Iowa’s statewide pheasant population to be essentially unchanged from 2021 at slightly under 20 birds per 30-mile route. Iowa’s pheasant counts mirrored what was happening across much of the pheasant belt. North Dakota and Nebraska were essentially status quo – like Iowa, Minnesota was slightly higher and Kansas was down due to the drought. South Dakota doesn’t conduct population surveys.
Based on the survey results, Iowa hunters can expect to harvest 300,000 to 400,000 roosters this year, which is similar to last year, when the harvest was the highest in more than a decade.
The pheasant harvest is heavily dependent on hunter numbers and the past two years had the highest number of pheasant hunters since 2009. An estimated 63,000 hunters participated in 2021, a slight increase over 2020, and based on the number of phone calls Bogenschutz is receiving, the interest from nonresidents continues to rise.
“I’ve gotten calls from hunters in Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, New York – all interested in coming out to pheasant hunt,” he said.
While bird counts were not as high as the top regions, the pheasant populations have improved in the east central and southeast regions.
Something to note, he said, is that portions of western and northwestern Iowa impacted by the drought were opened to haying CRP and while the haying was not likely as wide spread as last year, it would still be advised for hunters to scout the area they plan to hunt prior to the season.
Iowa Pheasant Season
Iowa’s pheasant season is Oct. 29-Jan. 10, 2023, shooting hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The daily bag limit is three rooster pheasants with a possession limit of 12. Hunters must have a valid hunting license and habitat fee.
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. While the supply isn’t as tight as it was for dove loads, it still isn’t great.
Iowa’s youth enjoy special pheasant season Oct. 22-23
Iowa’s young hunters will get to experience the first cackle and flush of the year during the youth only pheasant season Oct. 22-23, and the 2022 season should be good.
The residents-only youth season gives Iowans age 15 and younger the opportunity to hunt for rooster pheasants without purchasing a license, habitat fee or taking hunter education. Youths must hunt under direct supervision of an adult age 18 or older that has a valid hunting license and habitat fee. Last year, nearly 6,000 youth participated, harvesting more than 2,500 roosters.
Special youth only seasons allows young hunters an opportunity for success without pressure or competition from other hunters. Only the youth are allowed shoot pheasants and they may bag one rooster per day.
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.