Most telling in this year’s survey is the lower number of young pheasants. Statewide, 26 percent fewer chicks were tallied, indicative of the poor nesting season.
Bogenschutz said wintering survival of adult birds was better than expected. The exception there was across parts of central and east central Iowa, where a December blizzard dropped a foot of heavy, wet snow. It collapsed all the grassy cover, lowering chances of birds making it through the rest of the winter.
Looking ahead, wildlife officials say year-to-year weather as well as long-term farm policy holds the keys to pheasant recovery.
Upland game surveys are applied over nine regions in Iowa. Results from 2013 were varied…complicated by a drought in 2012 and record ‘wet’ in spring 2013.
Northwest (12.3 pheasants per route) and north central (9) showed declines … yet still offer Iowa’s best pheasant counts. Northeast Iowa (2.7) traditionally has low pheasant counts. This year, it actually doubled; raising the concern that ideal survey conditions just meant birds that were missed in 2012, were counted in 2013).
Across Iowa’s middle, the west central region (5.4) indicates good overwinter survival for adults and fair nesting success. The central (7.9) and east central (3.8) regions tallied fewer adults; a result of that December blizzard, and smaller brood sizes; a sign of very poor nesting.
Across southern Iowa, numbers were stable (Southwest 2.8, South central 4.9, Southeast 6.3), when compared to 2012. Adults seem to have wintered well. Chick recruitment was poor in southwest and southeast Iowa; about the same in south central.