Iowa’s pheasant harvest increased 30 percent in 2014 to an estimated 216,000 roosters, marking the third harvest increase in a row for the popular game bird. Hunter numbers also increased an estimated nine percent to more than 63,000 small game hunters in 2014.
The harvest and participation estimates are based on an annual survey of hunters following the season.
“I think some of our former pheasant hunters are taking the wait-and-see approach or our harvest could have been even better. Hopefully, they won’t stay on the sidelines much longer,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources who led the survey.
Bogenschutz said he has received a lot of reports from people seeing roosters this spring leading him to think there were some missed opportunities last fall.
“Our August pheasant survey has increased three years in a row, indicating that the population is rebounding from the bad winter and spring weather from 2007-11,” he said.
Pheasants weren’t the only species to see a harvest increase in 2014, the quail harvest increased an estimated 23 percent, rabbit an estimated 28 percent, squirrels an estimated 23 percent and doves an estimated 17 percent. The survey asked hunters about partridge but the responses were too small to estimate accurately.
The August roadside survey provides the best population estimate for pheasants, quail, rabbits and partridge. The survey is conducted - , over the same 217- 30 mile routes each year. Results are posted on the DNR’s website in early September.
“With the mild winter we had, 2015 could be our best fall in a number of years for pheasant and quail harvest,” Bogenschutz said. “Roadside counts will be interesting this year.”