Iowa’s recent mild winter and dryer than normal April and May could lead to positive results for pheasant hunters this fall. Hen survival increases during mild winters, and more hens mean more nests and more nests typically means more pheasants in the fall.
Statewide snowfall from December through March was 7 inches below the 1961-90 average and Iowa’s lowest snowfall total since 2012. Snowfall was below normal in all regions of the state. Winter hen survival was likely above normal for most regions for both pheasant and bobwhite quail.
Statewide the spring months were drier and colder than the 1961-90 average. The spring came early with little snow cover in March. April and May nesting season was cooler than normal and rainfall was one inch below the 1961-90 average. This is Iowa’s lowest nesting season rainfall since 1994.
Reports of early and large pheasant broods have been reported, suggesting a good hatch is underway.
The nesting forecast is based on a model that compares 30 years of weather data with the corresponding pheasant counts in August. This prediction is a best guess based on weather data, and it can be wrong. The DNR’s August roadside survey is the best gauge of what upland populations will be this fall.
The DNR will post its August roadside numbers online at www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey around Sept. 15.