Daily polls track the progress of the ups and downs in the presidential race in Iowa — but a poll taken a couple of months ago shows optimism for one of the most popular hunting seasons opening today (Saturday). D-N-R wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz conducts the annual roadside pheasant survey — and after five years of lagging numbers — he says the bird population was up 17 to 20-percent. Things may even be a little better than the poll indicated, as Bogenschutz says they depend on the morning dew to push the birds out where they can be counted.
“You know for good dew, you need good soil moisture and that wasn’t very abundant in Iowa this August, so the counts maybe didn’t capture everything that was out there,” Bogenschutz explained. “They are what they are and we’ve been hearing some things anecdotally, people running the combines have been seeing a few birds out there where they didn’t see any last year, so I think we’ve got a good first step toward bouncing the numbers back.” While the dew provides some margin for error in the pheasant poll, Bogenschutz can usually get a pretty good idea from it of how many ringnecks hunters will bag.
He says they can look at the numbers and make an estimate of the harvest. “This year I’m estimating we’ll probably harvest somewhere between 150 and 200-thousand birds — compared to only a hundred thousand last year — so a little bump up compared to last year, a good start,” Bogenschutz says. Another factor in favor of the hunters is the progress of the harvest, with is over 90-percent complete for corn and soybeans. “For the opener that’s going to be a plus for the hunters that are out there, all those standing crops won’t be available to hide the birds, so that might actually improve (the hunt) success wise,” he explained.
Birds trying to stay alive and away from hunters usually have some standing corn or beans to use for a getaway. “You know in a normal year only 50-percent of the corn usually’s out by the opener and this year it’s essentially all out,” Bogenschutz says, “and that will help hunters in finding birds.” Bird populations have been down the last five years due in part to bad weather.