DES MOINES — Survey numbers from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources show hunters bagged around 375,000 pheasants this year.

Wildlife biologist Todd Bogenschutz says that’s around a 25% increase over last year.  “Our harvest was the best we’ve seen in I think about 13 years — dating back to 2008.”

Bogenschutz says the information from hunters confirmed their August roadside survey — which showed bird numbers up in the northern third of the state and  across the central portion — while tough winter conditions dropped bird numbers in the south. “Things were really positive in the northern two thirds of the state and, you know, based on the harvest results from hunters looks like they did pretty well. I mean, they tended to agree that burden numbers were up,” he says. 

Bogenschutz says he was shocked to see an increase in the number of hunters.  “Just because, you know, the year before was a COVID year and you know, we’ve seen increases in fishing licenses, turkey licenses, deer, everything. You know, with COVID, nobody’s at work, people were looking for outdoor activities where they could isolate and still do things,” Bogenschutz says. “And you know, we thought maybe that number would come back down a little bit this year, but thanks to the pheasants, maybe we retained a few of those hunters.”

While bird numbers have trended up the last couple of years — Bogenschutz says habitat and weather remain the key factors that determine the trend will continue. “So our habitat base is much lower than it used to be. So for us to get back to kind of a million bird harvests, I don’t think it is possible, because we don’t have the base habitat,” he says. “You know, Mother Nature that always kind of sways the numbers a little bit one way or the other each year, just depending on what we’re getting.” 

The DNR will conduct its roadside pheasant survey again in August. Bogenschutz says the weather conditions this spring have been good for nesting and he expects the numbers will stay strong.