Iowa’s 15-day annual pheasant population survey begins on Aug. 1, and wildlife experts say this year could be hard to predict.
A record setting wet June that followed a winter of one polar vortex after another would likely favor a lower count, but many anecdotal reports of seeing more pheasants, quail and rabbits are coming in from across the state.
“When our pheasants do best, it’s after mild winters with less than 30 inches of snow followed by a warm, dry spring nesting season where we receive less than eight inches of rain,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources who coordinates and collects the data from the 208, 30-mile survey routes.
“I don’t want to get any hopes too high but perhaps the weather model will be wrong this year. Roadside counts should be interesting.”
The 30-mile routes are driven at sunrise on gravel roads preferably on mornings with heavy dew and little wind. Surveyors watch for hens moving their broods to the road edges to dry off before starting to look for insects.
Surveyors note the number in the brood, any adult pheasants present and the size of the chicks, which tells Bogenschutz if this was an initial nest or if the nest was washed out and this brood was from a second or even third nest attempt. Each attempt after the first has fewer eggs than the prior attempt.
They drive the same routes each year.
The survey also collects data on cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits, quail and Hungarian partridge.
The information will be available online at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey by middle September.