The Iowa Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) 2012 August Upland Wildlife Roadside Survey shows the statewide pheasant population has increased 16 percent when compared to last year.
"We expected to see an increase after the first mild winter in five years and we have, but it will take another two to three years of good weather for the population to fully recover from five straight years of heavy snow and cool wet springs," said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the DNR.
The average birds counted per 30 mile route statewide increased from 6.8 birds to 8 birds in 2012. The highest pheasant counts per route are in the northwest region, with 16, central region, with 13, and north central region with 10. The survey also showed an increase in the number of partridge and quail, while cottontail numbers were unchanged.
While the pheasant recovery is not as large as predicted, it is a step in the right direction and hunters should see a few more birds while hunting this fall. The 2012 pheasant hunting season runs from October 27 through January 10, 2013.
"Well managed habitat is also critical for recovery," Bogenschutz said. "The DNR has worked with private landowners to improve wildlife habitat on more than 7,000 acres of private lands in exchange for access for hunters." Information on Iowa's Habitat Access Program is available at www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/PlacestoHuntShoot/HabitatAccessProgram.aspx
The DNR has been working with Pheasants Forever to expand our cooperative partnership working with private landowners to improve habitat." An important part of this effort is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and this effort is critical for pheasant to recovery in Iowa.
"We no longer have hay or small grain fields to raise pheasants," said Bogenschutz. "CRP is a key habitat for the birds on private lands." U.S. Department of Agriculture information shows 288 square miles of CRP fields expire next year in Iowa.