We are nearing my favorite time of the year, September begins the waterfowl and dove seasons, October is the pheasant and whitetail deer opener's. Every year I especially look forward to the Iowa Pheasant Opening Day. For me it's a great time to get family and friends together and enjoy a weekend in the fields. My favorite part of pheasant hunting by far is watching my Brittany, Biff weave through the tall grass and lock-in on a pheasant. This is typically followed by me missing the bird and Biff looking back, wondering how I missed that one at 4 feet away?
Anyway, the last 10 years the Iowa Pheasant population continues to decline and it seems were on track to have this bird no longer exist in Iowa. The 2011 roadside count began today and I'm trying to stay optimistic about the numbers but I don't think it's going to be good at all. In 2001 our roadside count was at its lowest ever of 13 birds counted. 2010 it was at 15 birds, so in 10 years we have not seen really any growth at all. And from what I've seen this spring and summer, 2011 could be worse than 2001.
Now I do understand we have had cold harsh winters, extremely wet springs and a lack of good pheasant habitat. But in the 1960's and 70's when the pheasant numbers were at there peak, did Iowa not have any cold winters or rain in the spring? I would find that hard to believe. The biggest problem I thought was the lack of habitat but I walked many miles of great habitat in Clay and Dickinson County last year and bagged a few birds but nothing like I should of.
Every year I keep my fingers crossed that the pheasant road side numbers increase because it sure would be a major loss for the state of Iowa to lose the Ring Neck Pheasant. At what point do we just cut our losses and begin a stocking program much like South Dakota's? Maybe a 5 year stocking program of pheasants would help us get back to where we need to be with population?
Pheasants Harvested in Iowa 2010: 238,000
Pheasants Harvested in South Dakota 2010: 3,000,000