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Iowa DNR Expects To See Fewer Pheasants On Annual Count This Month

pheasant_chicks_iowa_dnr.jpg
Iowa DNR
Iowa DNR biologists say a cold, wet spring correlates with a higher mortality of pheasant chicks.

State environmental officials are tracking pheasant numbers across Iowa this month to get a picture of the population trend.
Department of Natural Resources staff will drive 30-mile routes on gravel roads at dawn between now and Aug. 15 to count pheasants, quails and partridges. The surveys also track cottontails and jackrabbits.

On mornings with heavy dew, pheasants can be seen on the roadside. State Upland Wildlife Biologist Todd Bogenschutz says they don’t like being wet.

They’ll come to the roadside and just kind of lope there and wait for the vegetation to dry off before they start feeding for the day,” Bogenschutz said. “So that gives us a great opportunity to count them.”

The pheasant counts help get useful information to upland game hunters.

Bogenschutz says he expects the counts to be down because of a colder, wet spring. Numbers have declined since surveys started in the 1960s because of a loss of habitat like hay and small grains.

"The birds don't come to the roadside if it’s not very wet out." - Upland Wildlife Biologist Todd Bogenschutz

Declining populations are a concern because pheasant hunting is an economic boom for rural counties. Bogenschutz said the economic impact has declined over the years as pheasant numbers declined.

Last year’s statewide survey averaged 15 birds on a 30-mile route. Most of Iowa was in a drought around the time of the survey, Bogenschutz said.

“The birds don't come to the roadside if it's not very wet out," he said. "So then we don’t get a very good count."

Bogenschutz said the actual number of pheasants last year was likely better than what the surveys showed because it’s impossible to count all of the pheasants out there.

Even with lower numbers from the count, Bogenschutz said there is no threshold where they would stop hunting for the season. Females are protected and hunters can only harvest the males.

Hunting season for pheasants starts Oct. 27.