By Tom Carpenter, Editor - Pheasants Forever
No matter how you measure summer, it starts to wane somewhere, sometime, in July.
Maybe the weather doesn’t quite say autumn is on the way, but the upland hunter’s mind begins to turn just a bit toward autumn – getting the dog out more, shooting a few rounds, patching up those boots and brush pants, placing that ammo order … and dreaming about splendid roosters erupting into a blue autumn sky.
It’s never too early to dream. Or to start planning autumn’s excursions and adventures. That’s why I surveyed key wildlife managers in the ten of the top pheasant states to see what was going on with the birds right now. While the biologists are careful to hold predictions close to their vests until official roadside surveys and the like are in, it’s also far enough along to take an early look.
Read on. Dream on. Start getting ready.Here's your Iowa update.
“April was the coldest in state history, while May had above normal temps,” reports Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Game Biologist/Farmbill Coordinator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “April and May were both wetter than normal as well.”
“Our weather model is predicting a decline in bird counts based on winter and spring data,” says Bogenschutz. “June rainfall is not a part of our model, but the month was record-setting –
about 70 to 90 percent above normal precipitation – similar to the flood year of 1993 in northern half of the state.”
“So it’s not looking like a good pheasant nesting year for a large share of Iowa,” Bogenschutz says. “On a brighter upland note, the southern third of Iowa has not experienced such intense rains, so quail in that region could be abundant this fall.”
“Habitat condition remain stable compared to last year.” Says Bogenschutz. “We have 1.8 million acres of CRP, which is similar to last year, but we've lost a lot of hay and small grains over the last 10 to 20 years, so our total habitat continues to decline.”
“The graphic following shows is acres by habitat type (1,000),” says Bogenschutz. “In 2007 we had about 3.6 million acres of potential pheasant habitat that by 2017 was about ~2.9M acres.” Pheasants Forever members and chapters will keep doing their part to add back to Iowa’s upland habitat.
“A strong and robust CRP is what keeps pheasants distributed across Iowa,” says Bogenschutz. “We are holding our own in CRP acres, but fields have gotten smaller over the years as Iowa has not done well in general CRP signups, which are bigger fields.”
“Iowa landowners have been more successful enrolling smaller fields like filter strips,” he explains. “Our IHAP walk-in hunting program
has over 20,000 acres and remains popular with hunters, as is our new online hunting atlas
which shows public lands available statewide for hunting.
“Right now our weather model is predicting likely lower pheasant numbers compared to last year,” says Bogenschutz, “but our roadside counts
will be the definitive answer. We usually post those survey results in early September.”
Also, Pheasants Forever will explore Iowa in-depth in the Iowa Fall Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2018, in early September.