Iowa Outdoors: Pheasants

Pheasant hunting season is right around the corner and starts off with the youth pheasant season Oct. 24 and 25. Pheasant and quail season starts Oct. 31.

Iowa’s annual pheasant survey completed in August is great news for hunters this year – statewide, Iowa averaged 20.2 birds per 30-mile survey route, up significantly from 2019, with six of the nine survey regions averaging more than 20 pheasants per route, the most since 2007.

“Pheasant hunters should expect significantly better pheasant numbers in 2020,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Pheasant hunting this fall could be some of the best the state has seen in a decade.”

Bogenschutz credits the winter of 2019-20 with its mild temperatures and little snowfall that led to higher hen survival and coupled with a dry spring led to more successful nesting and an increase in the population. The southeast region led the way with a 163 percent increase, followed by the northeast region with a 115 percent increase and the east central region with a 55 percent increase.

While those numbers are very good, the statewide numbers would have likely been better if not for the drought conditions that impacted much of the state this year.

Iowa’s quail population was essentially unchanged from 2019 with the highest quail numbers coming from southwest Iowa. While the counts were unchanged, it is still double the number of quail counted from a decade ago. Hunters can expect to harvest more than 20,000 quail this year.

Iowa’s partridge population was up slightly over last year with higher counts coming from northcentral Iowa. Iowa’s rabbit population was nearly identical to 2019 with better populations across southern and east central Iowa. “Cottontail hunters can expect excellent hunting across most of the state this fall,” Bogenschutz said.

To participate in the youth pheasant season the youth hunter must be age 15 or younger and be in the company of an adult age 18 or older who has a hunting license and habitat fee. The youth may harvest one male rooster pheasant per day and the possession limit is 2.

The pheasant season starting Oct. 31 has a daily bag limit of 3 roosters and a possession limit of 12. A hunting license and habitat fee is needed to participate.

Pheasant shooting hours are 8am to 4:30pm daily. Hunter orange apparel is required to hunt upland game birds such as pheasant. A hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls that have a surface area of at least 50 percent blaze orange meets the requirement.