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2017 Iowa pheasant harvest tops 220,000, 2018 nesting forecast is mixed

Iowa pheasants
(Iowa DNR photo)

DES MOINES – An estimated 55,000 hunters harvested more than 221,000 roosters in Iowa last fall; a slight decline from 245,000 harvested in 2016. Hunters reported good success across the entire northwest quarter of Iowa.

An early look at the 2018 pheasant forecast begins with nesting success which is likely a mixed bag.

Parts of southern Iowa are dry while northern Iowa has been inundated with rain. Combined with a late arriving winter is a recipe for a stable to declining pheasant population.

“Our best indicator for the pheasant population is the August roadside survey, but our weather model gives us a pretty good guess what the population trend might be,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Bogenschutz bases his prediction on a series of statewide weather indicators. The model uses historic correlations between roadside counts and winter snowfall, spring temperature and rainfall to predict this fall’s population trend based on current weather. The model has been used since 2002 and accurately predicts the population trend more than 80 percent of the time.

The statewide thresholds that predict an up or down population are 30 inches of snow, eight inches of rain and an average spring temperature of 54 degrees. Much of the state crossed the rainfall line and was cooler than preferred, but not all.

“It’s not all bad news,” Bogenschutz said. “We have a lot of mixed data especially in southern Iowa. That region didn’t receive much snow, and two of the three southern zones were at or below the rainfall totals that impact nesting. Anecdotally, we’ve received reports of more roosters crowing and male bobwhite calling in this area, which is a sign of good overwinter survival. Bobwhite could be abundant in southern Iowa this fall.”

More than 8,500 quail hunters harvested nearly 27,000 quail in 2017

The August roadside survey of upland populations takes place Aug. 1-15. Staff will drive more than 6,000 miles of survey routes across the state to assess bird trends. Results will be posted around Sept. 10 at

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