Outlook good for 2018 pheasant season

Thousands of hunters in blaze orange will take to the fields when Iowa’s pheasant season opens Oct. 27. And with the second highest pheasant population in a decade, hunters can afford to be optimistic.

“We have good pheasant hunting across the state where we have good habitat,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Based on the results from the August roadside survey, hunters can expect to harvest 250,000 to 300,000 roosters this fall. Last year, an estimated 55,000 hunters harvested 221,000 roosters. That’s 2,000 fewer hunters than in 2016.

“We have the birds to support a harvest of 400,000 but we need more hunters to reach it,” Bogenschutz said. “We have a similar pheasant population estimate as 2007 when we shot 600,000 roosters but the difference between 2007 and today is 30,000 pheasant hunters. Until more hunters return, we won’t see our harvest match what the population can support.”

Participation bottomed out in 2013 and while today’s hunter numbers have improved, it’s a far cry from the 200,000 pheasant hunters less than two decades ago.

“I’ve talked to hunters who hunted Iowa on their way home from South Dakota last year and said they had better hunting in Iowa. The opportunity is here,” Bogenschutz said.

Hunters have options when it comes to pursuing pheasants. Much of Iowa’s public land is managed to benefit pheasants, plus, landowners in Iowa are friendly to hunting if hunters are willing to knock on some doors, Bogenschutz said. “And we have our Iowa Habitat and Access Program partnership between the two where we work with participating landowners to provide public hunting access to private CRP land,” he said.

Iowa’s youth only pheasant season is set aside for hunters age 15 and younger. The two days season is Oct. 20-21. The regular season opens Oct. 27 and this year, early success will likely be impacted by the crop harvest that has been delayed by up to three weeks in certain areas because of the wet fall.

Iowa pheasant season – Iowa’s pheasant season is Oct. 27-Jan. 10, 2019, shooting hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The daily bag limit is three rooster pheasants with a possession limit of 12. Hunters must have a valid hunting license and habitat fee.

Hunters are required to wear at least one article of external clothing with at least 50 percent of its surface area solid blaze orange: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls. The same blaze orange rule applies while hunting quail, gray partridge and ruffed grouse.

Places to hunt – The Iowa DNR’s online hunting atlas lists nearly 700,000 acres of public hunting land, including more than 25,000 acres of land enrolled in the popular Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP) allowing hunter access to private land.

Each area on the atlas includes a link to a map with property boundaries, the size of the area, habitat type, species of wildlife likely found, if nontoxic shot is required and more. The map is available as a downloadable pdf that can be printed or saved to a smartphone.
To view the atlas, go to www.iowadnr.gov/hunting and click on Places to Hunt and Shoot in the left column.

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