Thursday, October 30, 2014

PHEASANT OPENER, WARM, DRY…EVEN A FEW BIRDS

No crisp, frosty morning as you stepped into the switchgrass or crop stubble this past
weekend. Opening day pheasant hunters packed in water…not hand warmers. And with a hefty hike in expected bird numbers this fall; some were even packing out a pheasant or three.
“Most of the groups I checked Saturday morning had a bird; the groups with dogs,” assessed DNR conservation officer Brad Baker. He spent part of the day along the Iowa River Corridor, where low lying flood-prone acres have been purchased or taken out of row crops by easements in the last 15 years.
“They were seeing birds today. The last two years, much of the Corridor was underwater (through much of the growing season),” Baker said.
Upland game hunters have a great reason to head into the field this fall. Pheasant numbers, measured across 200 early morning, gravel road routes, are up a whopping 151 percent from last year’s record low. Much of that was due to increased winter survival and a hatch that made it through a soggy May and early June. However, biologists also feel many 2013 birds went uncounted, due to bone-dry ‘no dew’ conditions during last year’s August survey.
“We must have seen 20 or 30 on opening day last year,” countered three hunters, as I caught with them on the Hawkeye Wildlife Area.
Scott Shrader of North Liberty, Don Truelow of Kansas and Brian Camper of Illinois were wrapping up a drive as I pulled up in the afternoon. They had one rooster for the day; having been over by Cemetery Road and Grabin’s Road…near the west end of the public hunting area along the Iowa River in Johnson County.
One of them did note that there were no crops standing in some areas on Hawkeye; likely casualties of late rain this year that flooded young growth…or didn’t allow it to get planted at all.
Near that west end location, a Scott County couple could have done without the wet conditions, also…driving through a creek that flooded their pickup’s engine. They did have the sense to hunt with their two Labs, near the truck, while waiting for it to dry. They were still waiting at mid-afternoon…though for aride by then.
With mild…almost too warm…weather and a good pheasant count, more hunters should be out through the nearly 11-week Iowa season. After an historic low harvest of about 115,000 birds last year, biologists anticipate 200,000 to 300,000 roosters being taken this fall and early winter.
Most pheasant hunting in Iowa is done in the first two weeks. That might be stretched out a little more, while waiting for the corn to come out of the fields.

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
STORY COUNTY Tough hunting conditions - warm weather and lots of corn in - likely limited hunter participation.  Three hunters shot six on Saturday and four on Sunday.  Hunted till noon both days.

NORTHWEST IOWA Hunting in far northwest Iowa was very good; lots of hunters and lots of limits.  One wildlife area had 20 hunters make one pass and shot 38.  Lots of young birds. In the Iowa Great Lakes area, lots of hunters, pretty good success (everyone happy, some limits).  Father and son shot six roosters in 23 minutes by Cheever Lake.

BOONE COUNTY Saturday flushed three roosters and one hen, saw 12 birds on the roads.  Sunday shot three roosters flushed around 20 birds in 20 minutes.  Monday shot three roosters flushed 17 birds in two hours.
TODD BOGENSCHUTZ Upland Wildlife Research Biologist

WOODBURY COUNTY Saturday found average amount of hunters. Pheasant numbers seemed only okay with so much standing corn. Enough pheasants to keep your interest but probably not lots of limits taken. Most hunters probably had a bird in the bag with an occasional limit here or there. CERRO GORDO COUNTY Some WMAs over the weekend had many, many hunters while others had lots of room to hunt. Plenty of pheasants to keep your interest (even with so much standing corn) with hunters probably getting 2-3 birds each.
TERRY HAINDFIELD Wildlife Biologist Upper IA Wildlife Unit

NORTHEAST IOWA Saw one pheasant hunter and his dog.  There was no one hunting pheasants at Sweet Marsh and a few groups at Leopold with poor to fair success. I would expect a few more groups around Big Marsh and a little better success there. I have seen a good number of broods in the last month or so. 
JASON AUEL Wildlife Biologist Cedar-Wapsi Wildlife Unit

LOUISA COUNTY There were a few hunters at Cone Marsh WMA on opening morning. Think most people got some shooting. Still standing crops all around the area so should get more birds moving in as the crops are harvested.
BILL OHDE SE District Wildlife Supervisor

CLINTON AND SCOTT COUNTIES Hunting was better than expected.  There were lots of hunters and lots of birds on prime public areas.  A few shot limits, and most had shooting.  Everyone seemed pretty happy.
CURT KEMMERER Wildlife Biologist Maquoketa Wildlife Unit