It is not exactly the combination pheasant hunters and wildlife experts would draw up for good pheasant survival - a blizzard in March, an ice storm and flooding during the early spring nesting season.
Iowa pheasants endured a rough year, but with that said, Iowa will maintain its position as a top pheasant hunting state in the country. According to the 2007 August Upland Wildlife Roadside Survey, the pheasant populations across Iowa are nearly unchanged compared to 2006. "We saw an average of 27 birds per route across Iowa, compared to 28 per route last year," said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa DNR. "Based on this year's roadside counts, Iowa pheasant hunters should harvest between 700,000 and 780,000 roosters this fall."
Once again, northwest, north-central and central Iowa reported higher bird counts, but small, localized areas of good pheasant numbers were reported in the northeast, east-central and southeast. Given the poor winter and spring weather in many regions Bogenschutz was pleased the statewide index is basically unchanged from a year ago.
"In some areas we saw declines, but in others we had good survival or reproduction to offset these weather related events," he said.
"Habitat, particularly CRP, is the key that allowed our populations to rebound from these storms. Unfortunately, Iowa will see almost 200 square miles of CRP habitat - an area equal to half the size of Dickinson County - likely plowed up after October 1."
Farmers wanting to plant more corn to meet the needs of ethanol industry and it's higher per bushel price led the USDA to decide against a general CRP sign-up in 2007 or 2008. Without a sign-up to re-offer these acres at a competitive price, landowners have few options other than to farm these marginal lands.
"Hunters should check their favorite hunting spot before the season because there could be a tractor and disk running across it preparing for spring planting," Bogenschutz said.