Hunters Bagged 630,000 Roosters in Iowa
DES MOINES – More than 109,000 pheasant hunters harvested 630,000 roosters in 2007, keeping Iowa among the national leaders in pheasant hunting. The harvest estimates are based on a survey of small game hunters. The 2007 pheasant harvest was a 16 percent decline from 2006, when hunters harvested nearly 750,000 roosters.
But as Iowa continues to lose critical Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) habitat, it will not likely provide pheasant hunting and harvests that was experienced in the 1980s and 1990s, with more than 200,000 hunters and harvests topping 1 million roosters.
Pheasants lost critical habitat necessary to survive poor weather when the equivalent of 233 square miles of land enrolled in CRP were plowed under last fall when the contracts expired. Add in another 209 square miles of CRP that will expire this fall and will likely be plowed under and the total CRP loss is about equal to the size of Mills County, or a strip of grasslands one and a half miles wide running from Davenport to Omaha.
Ten years ago, Iowa had twice the number of hunters, and roughly twice the pheasant harvest than today. Of the 109,000 hunters, more than 23,000 were non-residents. Those hunters came 42 different states, but primarily from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan and Illinois. Iowa’s peak for non-residents was in 1997 with more than 50,000. That is a lot of money not being spent in cafes, hotels and gas stations in rural parts of Iowa. The 2006 economic impact of upland bird hunting in Iowa was almost $250 million.
Residents hunted an average of seven days and bagged six birds during the season. Nonresidents hunted an average of five days and bagged six birds as well. Hunter success was highest in the first nine days, when about 63 percent of the total pheasant harvest took place. Resident hunters accounted for 79 percent of the total pheasant harvest.
An estimated 3,800 adults took 7,100 youths hunting during Iowa’s special two-day youth pheasant season. The youth hunters harvested an estimated 5,800 roosters.
Other small game harvest estimates were also lower. Some 18,200 quail hunters harvested more than 54,400 quail, down from 22,500 hunters and 75,300 harvested in 2006. Iowa’s 31,100 rabbit hunters harvested 131,250 cottontail rabbits last fall, down from 34,300 hunters and 155,900 harvested in 2006.
“Our small game populations can bounce back from these short-term, weather related set backs like we experienced this year, but we need to have good habitat,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Without the habitat, they have no place to get out of the weather, hide from predators or to hatch and raise their young. Road ditches, waterways, and fence lines produce very few pheasants or quail, it is really that simple.”