Iowa 2007 Pheasant Numbers Steady from 2006
Posted: September 7, 2007
For more information, contact Todd Bogenschutz at 515-432-2823, ext. 111
It is not exactly the combination pheasant hunters and wildlife experts would draw up for good pheasant survival - a blizzard in March, an ice storm and flooding during the early spring nesting season. Iowa pheasants endured a rough year, but with that said, Iowa will maintain its position as a top pheasant hunting state in the country. According to the 2007 August Upland Wildlife Roadside Survey, the pheasant populations across Iowa are nearly unchanged compared to 2006.
"We saw an average of 27 birds per route across Iowa, compared to 28 per route last year," said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa DNR. "Based on this year's roadside counts, Iowa pheasant hunters should harvest between 700,000 and 780,000 roosters this fall."
Once again, northwest, north-central and central Iowa reported higher bird counts, but small, localized areas of good pheasant numbers were reported in the northeast, east-central and southeast.
Given the poor winter and spring weather in many regions Bogenschutz was pleased the statewide index is basically unchanged from a year ago.
"In some areas we saw declines, but in others we had good survival or reproduction to offset these weather related events," he said. "Habitat, particularly CRP, is the key that allowed our populations to rebound from these storms. Unfortunately, Iowa will see almost 200 square miles of CRP habitat - an area equal to half the size of Dickinson County - likely plowed up after October 1."
Farmers wanting to plant more corn to meet the needs of ethanol industry and it's higher per bushel price led the USDA to decide against a general CRP sign-up in 2007 or 2008. Without a sign-up to re-offer these acres at a competitive price, landowners have few options other than to farm these marginal lands.
"Hunters should check their favorite hunting spot before the season because there could be a tractor and disk running across it preparing for spring planting," Bogenschutz said.
With no CRP sign-up in 2008, Iowa is expected to have another 350 to 400 square miles of CRP - an area the size of Winnebago County - plowed under after Oct. 1, 2008. Habitat loss of this magnitude will certainly mean Iowa's pheasant population will be lower in 2008 and 2009 and will impact Iowa bird watchers as well. Pheasants and songbirds need grassland habitat to survive, said Bogenschutz.
The impact will also be felt on tourism sectors of Iowa's rural communities as the most recent estimates show Iowa pheasant hunters have approximately a $150 million dollar annual impact on Iowa's economy.
The CRP is up for reauthorization and budgets are tight. The CRP is the most successful conservation program ever implemented by USDA. It improves drinking water, reduces soil erosion, and provides excellent wildlife habitat, said Bogenschutz.
The 2007 pheasant hunting season runs from Oct. 27, through Jan. 10, 2008. The full roadside report can be downloaded from the department's webpage at http://www.iowadnr.gov/wildlife Population trend information on quail, partridge and rabbits can also be found in the report.
2006 Iowa Pheasant Nesting Outlook
MILD WEATHER GOOD FOR PHEASANTS Iowa pheasant hunters can be cautiously optimistic they will see more pheasants during the 2006 hunting season, thanks a mild winter and spring. Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, uses a formula based on the previous winter snow cover and spring rainfall and temperature to predict this falls pheasant population. Bogenschutz said pheasants are not out of the woods yet, as many nests will begin hatching in June. Heavy rains can cause the largest impact, washing out nests before eggs hatch or the young pheasants can escape the rising water. Heavy rainfall across north Iowa and in certain areas of southwest Iowa in May could have some impact on nesting success. With a dry first half of June predicted, many hens have a good chance for a successful nest. "The weather data is correct about 80 percent of the time and over the last five years the models have been correct," he said.
The DNR's August roadside survey is the best gauge of what upland populations will be this fall. The DNR will post it's August roadside numbers on the DNR website around September 15th. Those with e-mail can sign-up to be notified when the roadside survey has been completed.
Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Biologist
Boone Wildlife Research Station
2005 Iowa Pheasant Nesting Outlook
Each year the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) uses a roadside survey to assess its upland game populations. The August Roadside Survey, as it is called, is conducted on sunny calm, mornings, with a heavy dew on the grass, between August 1st-15th of each year. Most upland wildlife, particularly pheasants, hate to be wet. On mornings with a heavy dew, hen pheasants bring their broods to the roadsides to dry off before they begin feeding. This natural tendency allows the birds to be counted and reproduction can be evaluated by counting the number of broods seen and their size. Survey routes are 30 miles long and are entirely on gravel roads. When conditions are favorable, Iowa DNR biologists and conservation officers drive their assigned routes, at 10-15 mph, and count all the pheasants, quail, partridge, rabbits, and jackrabbits seen. In all, there are 210-30 mile routes driven (6,300 miles) every August to assess Iowa’s upland game populations. Most counties have 2 routes, and the information from all of these routes is condensed to produce Iowa’s small game distribution map.