Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
The results of this year’s recently completed August roadside game surveys have been finalized. According to DNR Upland Game Research Biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, the prospects are bright, and Iowans can look forward to exciting fall and winter hunting seasons during 2023.
“Statewide pheasant counts increased by 15 percent over 2022, while counts for gray [Hungarian] partridge increased by 43 percent over last year,” said Bogenschutz. “Statewide counts for bobwhite quail and cottontail rabbits remained essentially unchanged from last year.”
The ring-necked pheasant is Iowa’s most popular upland gamebird. During the 2023 nesting season, ring-necks enjoyed their largest increases across the northern portions of the state.
In Northwest Iowa, pheasant counts were up 26 percent over last year. The increase is an especially welcome surprise when considering the heavy snowfalls, extreme temperatures, and substantial [pheasant] mortality endured last winter. The northwest region’s partridge count showed an even more amazing gain of 83 percent; the highest densities of ‘Huns’ recorded anywhere in the state.
North Central Iowa’s already burgeoning pheasant populations increased by ten percent during 2023. Acre for acre, the region currently represents the Crown Jewel of Iowa pheasant hunting. North Central’s grassland nesting covers are currently thought to be at or near their maximum carrying capacity.
In Northeastern Iowa, pheasant numbers increased by an astounding 61 percent; the highest recorded in NE since 1998. The gains are especially good news for a region that has recorded lackluster pheasant numbers during recent years.
Iowa’s statewide small game surveys are conducted each August by field personnel with the Department of Natural Resources. Data is collected from 215 standardized, 30-mile survey routes designed to monitor statewide population trends for ring-necked pheasants, gray [Hungarian] partridge, bobwhite quail, and rabbits.