A quick scan around Lower Morse Wildlife Area in Wright County yields more pheasants than hunters, which is saying something given Iowa’s current pheasant population. Three weeks into the 2011 pheasant season and hunters are scarcer than roosters.
“There is not much competition on public land, which could be a good thing for hunters who still plan to hunt,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “A lot of hunters went out opening day and didn’t see much and now they are done for the year.”
Bogenschutz has been out a number of times with mixed results. Some trips he finds no birds and others a bird or two and on good days, he has shot a three bird limit twice.
He said areas with excellent winter cover – cattails or switch grass – hunters have a chance to see some birds, and currently, the best cover is primarily on public land.
“People who are seeing birds are hunting the excellent, well managed habitat,” he said. “Hunters looking for birds and are flexible should identify public land with good winter cover in north central, central or northwest Iowa. Those regions have the better pheasant numbers and the winter cover – switch grass, cattails – that hold birds. They should expect the birds to be scattered after being hunted for a few weeks, which is typical.
“But hunters need to set realistic goals of a bird per hunter or so,” Bogenschutz said. “There are not a lot of guys shooing limits, but we do have those too. The key is good habitat and good dogs. Flush a bird or two and put one in the bag.”