Iowa’s pheasant season opens Oct. 29
Iowa’s pheasant hunting tradition will begin another chapter on Oct. 29, when nearly 60,000 hunters will pursue ringnecks during the season opening weekend in fields across the state.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources annual August roadside survey predicts Iowa pheasant hunters can expect to have good hunting this fall, and likely more company in the field. The optimistic mood is a natural outcome of five consecutive years of higher population surveys and hunter harvests.
The survey found an average of 21 pheasants per 30 mile route statewide, with higher counts coming from counties crossing the state diagonally from northwest to southeast. The statewide average in 2015 was 24 pheasants per route.
“At this point, it appears much of our corn and beans will be out of the fields by the opener, which will concentrate birds to grass areas and make hunters happy. If we have good weather, I think we could see a bump in hunter numbers and birds harvested,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa DNR.
Bogenschutz said he has noticed more birds near field edges and along the roads as the crops have been coming out.
“I’ve been seeing some birds around on my way in to the office and have been getting a few phone calls from around the state from people also seeing birds,” he said. “The birds are here, we need hunters to return.”
Iowa’s pheasant population could sustain a harvest of 500,000 roosters, but it will not reach that level until there are 90,000 hunters afield. In 2015, some 55,000 hunters harvested 270,000 Iowa roosters.
Hunters can read the August roadside survey, review hunting regulations, buy a license and find a place to hunt online at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting.
Pheasant regulations unchanged
Regulations covering pheasant hunting are unchanged from last year – there is a limit of three roosters per day, 12 roosters in possession, and hunters are required to wear one piece of solid blaze orange clothing.
If hunting public land, be sure to check if steel shot is required. If cleaning the birds in the field, be sure to leave the head, fully feathered wing or leg attached while transporting the bird home.
Youth-only pheasant season set
Iowa’s young hunters will get to experience the first cackle and flush of the year during the youth-only pheasant season Saturday and Sunday.
The residents-only youth season gives Iowans age 15 and younger the opportunity to hunt for rooster pheasants without purchasing a license, habitat fee or taking hunter education. Youths must hunt under direct supervision of an adult age 18 or older that has a valid hunting license and habitat fee.
Special youth-only seasons allows young hunters an opportunity for success without pressure or competition from other hunters. Only the youth are allowed to shoot pheasants, and they can bag one rooster per day.
Quail population at high level
Iowa’s quail population is its highest since 1989 after experiencing increases again across south central and southwest Iowa this year.
“This is the best opportunity we’ve had to hunt quail in 27 years,” Bogenschutz said. “For anyone who has ever had an interest in quail or who hasn’t hunted quail recently, this is the year to go.”
In 1989, 80,000 hunters harvested 400,000 quail. In 2015, 10,000 hunters shot 28,000 quail.
Quail population information is also included in the August roadside survey for hunters wanting to give quail hunting a try.
Quail season begins Oct. 29.
Think safety before opening day
Hunters heading to the field for the opening weekend of pheasant season are encouraged to review safe hunting practices before they head out.
Megan Wisecup, hunter education administrator with the Iowa DNR, said hunters should get reacquainted with the techniques used to hunt pheasants – be sure to walk in a straight line and know where members of the hunting party are at all times, especially in low visibility areas like terraces, tall switch grass and standing corn.
“Go through the zones of fire with each member of the hunting party, talk about avoiding target fixation and swinging on game,” Wisecup said. “Wear plenty of blaze orange especially on the upper one third of your body. We are encouraging hunters to wear more blaze orange than the minimum required. The goal is to be seen by other hunters.
“The top pheasant hunting incidents all are related to not being seen. The shooter swings on a rooster, the victim is out of sight of the shooter or the rooster flew between the shooter and the victim.”
Wisecup said safety also extends to the canine companions.
“Avoid low shots to prevent injuring your hunting dog,” she said.
“The hunting plan and safety practices are all part of a responsible hunt. The goal at the end of the day is for everyone to return home safely.”
Tips for a safe hunt
• Iowa law requires hunters to wear at least one of the following articles of visible, external apparel with at least 50 percent of its surface area solid blaze orange: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls.
• Hunters should stay in communication with each other and to stay in a straight line while pushing a field.
• Discuss the hunting plan that spells out how the hunt will take place, each person’s role in the hunt and where each person will be at all times.
• Know exactly where standers will be located, especially when hunting standing corn or tall switch grass to avoid having the standers get shot by the pushers as they near the end of the field and the birds begin to flush.
• Make sure to unload the gun when crossing a fence or other obstacle to avoid it accidentally discharging.
• Properly identify the target and what is beyond it especially if hunting in fields that still have standing corn.
• If hunting with a dog, never lay a loaded gun against a fence. Hunting dogs are usually excited to be in the field and could knock the gun over causing it to discharge.
• Share the hunt. Take someone new along to help keep Iowa’s great hunting tradition alive.