Pheasant, quail, rabbit, dove and partridge harvest all increased in 2018, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Pheasant hunters’ harvested nearly 320,000 roosters in Iowa during the 2018 season, which was the highest harvest total since 2008. In 2017, hunters harvested an estimated 221,000 roosters.
“The 2018 roadside survey showed our pheasant population was 39 percent higher than in 2017, so we were expecting an improved pheasant harvest,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa DNR. “We’re glad to see the increase in hunter success, but based on our pheasant population, we should see harvest numbers in excess of 500,000 birds. The primary factor holding our harvest totals down is the lack of hunters. Even with a positive forecast last year, we saw a 4 percent drop in the number of pheasant hunters.”
The harvest and participation estimates are based on the results of a random survey of licensed hunters following the 2018-19 hunting season.
Iowa’s quail harvest followed the same trend. Hunters harvested an estimated 47,000 quail last year, which was the highest total since 2007. The quail harvest increase was also expected based on the August roadside survey.
“For comparison, we had a similar quail population in 1995, but five times the quail hunters. They harvested an estimated 250,000 quail,” he said.
The survey estimated hunters harvested 123,000 rabbits, nearly 81,000 squirrels and nearly 119,000 doves.
The Iowa DNR is in the process of conducting its annual survey of upland game. The August roadside survey covers more than 6,500 miles of routes driven on gravel roads at dawn on mornings with heavy dew. Hen pheasants will move their broods to the edge of the gravel road to dry off before they begin feeding, which makes them easier to count. The statewide survey takes place between Aug. 1-15.
The August roadside survey has been conducted over the same routes since 1962. In addition to pheasants and quail, the survey collects data on partridge, cottontails and jackrabbits. Results will be posted online at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey by Sept. 10. Iowa’s pheasant season begins Oct. 26.