Summer pheasant report

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Each summer, Pheasants Forever does a summer report of pheasant conditions and numbers throughout the country. Here is a look at the Iowa report.

As summer reaches its midpoint, every pheasant hunter’s thoughts start turning to autumn’s prospects. The sun hangs just a titch lower in the sky. Dog work intensifies a smidge. Shooting takes on a notch more significance.

While it may be too early for a full-fledged hunting prediction (Pheasant’s Forever’s Fall Hunt Forecast, out in early September, will take care of that), it is a good time to take a preseason look at conditions and habitat on the ground, and maybe get a little look at what might be coming this autumn.

We talked to wildlife managers across pheasant range and pulled together this comprehensive summer report. As with every year, the news varies from region to region and state by state. But this rundown will give you a little summer pheasant fix ... and help you keep dreaming and start planning.

“Generally, we did pretty well last winter,” said Todd Bogenschultz, upland game biologist/farm bill coordinator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Snowfall was normal or below normal for most of the state — up to a foot less. That was good for both pheasant and quail survival. The northwest and north-central parts of the state received more snow — about the normal level. Overall we came into nesting season in good shape, with decent numbers of birds on the ground.”

That brings us to nesting.

“I typically start by looking at nesting in April and May. But we came into a March that was like April this year, from some brood reports I have seen and heard. Then May got cool and rainy, but June came back sunny and warm. That’s when a lot of the hatch is occurring anyway, and that should bode well. There was good anecdotal evidence of a decent pheasant hatch,” Bogenshutz said.

But post-winter bird counts were still decent in that harder-hit northwest/north-central zone, so with a good hatch, bird numbers could be strong there too.

“We will know more about the hatch after August roadside count,” Bogenschutz said. That will tell more of the tale of what to expect for Hawkeye ringneck hunting this fall. Pheasants Forever is going to make a trip down to go on a count survey route in August, so stay tuned for that report.

Where to hunt pheasants in Iowa? “Generally the best pheasant country is a band venturing from the northwest corner, and somewhat the north-central, diagonally across the state southeastwards to Sigourney,” Bogenschutz described. “Pheasant populations are lower in the northeast, southwest and south-central,” but there are pockets with birds.

As for habitat, “The farm bill is key in Iowa,” Bogenschutz said. “That’s what drives our grassland. Not many farmers do small grains such as oats anymore. There is little hay ground. We were at 2 million acres of CRP, it went down to 1.5 million, and now it is back up at about 1.7 million. That’s more fortunate than places like North Dakota and Montana. Coupled with mild winters as of late, bird numbers are good.”

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