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Iowa DNR reports busy year for pheasants, hunters

By ERIN JORDAN

The Gazette –An AP Exchange story

CEDAR RAPIDS — This may be a banner year for pheasant hunting in Iowa with both the number of birds and the number of hunters predicted to be the highest in a decade.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ annual roadside survey of pheasants showed an 18 percent increase in 2020 over 2019. The average number of pheasants spotted per route — 20.3 — was higher in the early August survey than the state’s 10-year average of 15.3.

“Overall, pheasant hunters in the Hawkeye state should expect significantly better pheasant numbers in 2020,” the Iowa DNR reported. “Six of the nine survey regions reported pheasant averages of 20-plus per route. Iowa has not had six regions report 20-plus pheasant averages since 2007.”

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that since 1962, the Iowa DNR has been doing a roadside survey of ringneck pheasants and other animals, including bobwhite quail, gray partridges and cottontail rabbits.

Surveyors drive 6,000 miles over the first two weeks in August, covering 215 routes of at least 30 miles each across the state, said Todd Bogenschutz, the department’s upland wildlife research biologist.

Surveyors go out on dewy mornings because pheasants don’t like to be wet and hens usually take their chicks out to gravel roads to avoid the dew, Bogenschutz said.

“It should be a morning with a real heavy dew, no winds and sunny,” he said.

Eugene Klonglan, an Iowa State University professor, standardized the survey method in 1962 when he said pheasant counts should be done in August, before the chicks get too big to distinguish from adult birds and before crops are harvested.

Pheasant populations are higher this year because the 2020 winter had mild temperatures and little snowfall, leading to a higher hen survival rate, Bogenschutz said. The dry spring made for more successful nesting.