The annual August roadside survey of pheasants found Iowa’s statewide pheasant population to be nearly 23 birds per survey route; a 15 percent increase over 2022. The biggest increases were in the southwest, northwest and northeast regions. Our pheasant population is the highest it’s been since 2015.
Based on the August roadside survey, Iowa hunters can expect to harvest 300,000 to 400,000 roosters this year, which is similar to the past two years, when the harvest was the highest in more than a decade.
An estimated 50,000 pheasant hunters were out pursuing pheasants the opening weekend of pheasant season, Oct. 28 and 29.
Quail season also opened on the 28th and fall covey counts indicate the population could be a little better than last year. Quail hunting is primarily across the southern two tiers of Iowa counties.
The opening morning of pheasant season found myself and three other officers patrolling Iowa, Benton and Tama counties. We came across 108 pheasant hunters; out of those hunters 47 pheasants were observed harvested or reported as such by hunters at the end of the day.
Most of the hunters I contacted on opening morning told me that they were seeing pheasants, but conditions or fate didn’t align for them to successfully fill their daily bag limit of three.
Over the past week or so bucks have been seen chasing does across our area as we enter the deer breeding season known as the rut. This is good news for the estimated 60,000 bowhunters participating in Iowa’s archery deer season, which began Oct. 1.
With drier than average conditions during the growing season, many crop fields are on schedule for harvest early in the archery season. This will create more daytime deer activity in places archery hunters tend to target, such as timber stands and wooded edges. Deer will begin changing their daily behavior as the breeding season, or rut, approaches in late October and November.
I and other officers have received numerous calls about dead deer showing up. I have lost count on the number of dead deer reported in Tama County in the past month or so. The cause of these deaths is certainly from Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), which is a seasonal disease more prevalent in drought years. Deer are the primary hosts of EHD. This disease is spread by female midges, often called “no-see-ums,” that consume a blood-meal from an infected deer and then transmit the virus to new hosts with each bite. Infected deer experience an incubation period of 7-10 days, during which they remain non-symptomatic, followed by the rapid onset of clinical signs and death within 8-36 hours. Deer will often be found in or near bodies of water to cool themselves during the end-stage of the disease. Occasionally, deer in Iowa will survive this disease and suffer from chronic injuries to the hoof wall (laminitis), causing deer to tip-toe or even walk on their “knees” and brisket.
Through the end of the day of Oct. 27, there were EHD deer mortalities reported from 69 counties. This represents the third highest number of reported mortalities during an EHD outbreak in Iowa. Only surpassed by the 2019 and 2012 HD outbreaks.
Oftentimes people get EHD confused with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Information on both can be found at the Iowa DNR website.