Pheasant season underway
Iowa pheasant hunters can expect to find the best bird numbers in northwest, north central and central Iowa and while the number of birds in the field is well below peak years, good hunting opportunities do exist.
“Even with low counts some hunters will have excellent hunts and plenty of opportunities and others will be able to flush a bird or two and put one in the bag,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The key is good habitat and good dogs.”
The latest crop harvest reports indicate nearly half of the corn remains in the field. As more corn is harvested, pheasants will be concentrated in available habitat. Areas with excellent winter cover like cattails or switch grass have the potential to hold some birds, and currently, the best cover is primarily on public land.
“Hunters looking for birds and are flexible should identify public land with good winter cover in north central, central or northwest Iowa. Those regions have the better pheasant numbers,” he said. Hunters can use the DNR’s online hunter atlas to do some “online” scouting of these areas.
Also available is more than 7,500 acres of private land in 27 counties; to be utilized for public hunting through Iowa’s Hunting and Access Program. A list of areas and maps is available at www.iowadnr.gov/ihap.
Hunting pressure will be highest during the first two weekends of the season, and then around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Based on the results of Iowa’s upland game survey, hunters should expect to harvest 100,000 to 150,000 pheasants during the Oct. 26 through Jan. 10 season.
Review safety practices
Hunters heading to the field for the pheasant season are encouraged to review safe hunting practices before they head out.
“Brushing up on safety should be part of every hunting plan,” said Megan Wisecup, with the Department of Natural Resources Hunter Education Program. “Go through the zone of fire with the hunting party, talk about avoiding target fixation and swinging on game.”
Wisecup 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.
“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,” Wisecup said.
“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. Conservation officers have investigated a number of incidents where hunters have been in a semicircle and had been shooting towards one-another.
• 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.
• 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. This will be especially important for the next few weeks 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.