Hunters Harvested More Than 750,000 Pheasants in 2004

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An estimated 756,184 rooster pheasants were harvested in Iowa during the 2004 season, a 30 percent decline from the 1,080,466 harvested in 2003. The number of resident and nonresident hunters also declined 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said for the sixth year in a row, Iowa cannot claim bragging rights as the top pheasant state. South Dakota led the nation with a harvest of 1.6 million roosters.

"This past seasons harvest was 27 percent below our 10-year average and 40 percent below the historical average of 1.27 million roosters," he said. "This downward trend can be linked back to when entire farm fields enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program were returned to production in the mid 1990s. We lost a lot of really good nesting habitat, and habitat that gave pheasants protection from the extremes of Iowa weather and from predators.

"We had fewer hunters because of the results from our August roadside survey. The survey showed fewer birds and we can trace that to weather impacts during the nesting season," Bogenschutz said. "We had been in a cycle of cool wet springs and had a hard winter in 2000 - 2001 that really impacted our pheasant population, but we bounced back and had a decent harvest in 2003. So far this year, our pheasant population is in pretty good shape and our harvest should bounce back again."

Quail hunters harvested an estimated 68,256 quail, which is a 40 percent decrease from the 114,067 estimate in 2003. Most of the quail harvest was in southern and east central Iowa.

Partridge hunters harvested an estimated 12,535 partridge, a 53 percent increase from 2003. Cottontail rabbit hunters harvested nearly 260,000 rabbits in 2004, a 6 percent increase from 2003.