If Iowa pheasant hunters liked the hunting they had in 2020, they should like it again in 2021. Based on the annual pheasant nesting forecast, Iowa’s pheasant population should be similar to slightly higher than last year, said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Bogenschutz bases the forecast on a model using 1961-90 winter and spring weather data to predict hen pheasant survival. For the 2020-21 winter, much of Iowa was as at or above normal snowfall totals, which likely reduced hen pheasant survival. The April-May spring was significantly dryer than normal across the state with indicates that the hens that survived probably had a good hatch.
“Given the information, our weather model is predicting pheasant population will be unchanged to slightly higher in 2021,” he said. “I expect there to be regional differences given the weather – populations might be up quite a bit in northwestern part of Iowa, but likely quite a bit lower in the southeastern part of the state. With winter ice reported across much of southern Iowa, I expect quail numbers will be lower than last year.”
While the weather model offers a prediction of the fall’s population, the DNR’s annual August roadside survey is the best gauge of what upland populations will be this fall. The survey results will be posted at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey around Sept. 15.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) plays an important role is providing habitat for pheasants and quail. The USDA is expected restart the general CRP signup next week. For more information about CRP visit the DNR’s website www.iowadnr.gov/habitat. CRP lands enrolled in the DNR’s Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP) have increased and offer excellent hunting in addition to Iowa’s other public lands. The IHAP program provides incentives to help landowners with pheasant and quail habitat in exchange for public hunter access. For more information on IHAP visit www.iowadnr.gov/ihap.