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Lack Of Snowfall Benefits Iowa Pheasants

BOONE – Based on the positive comments that filled Todd Bogenschutz’s email and voicemail, Iowa pheasant hunters saw more birds last fall and after last winter’s below normal snowfall that good vibe should continue this season.

Bogenschutz, the upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, uses winter snowfall and spring rain totals along with historic trends to predict pheasant population swings. For five years in a row, heavy winter snow followed by cool wet springs sent Iowa pheasant numbers into a free fall bottoming out in 2011.

But after more favorable winter/nesting seasons, including most recently in back to back years, things are looking up for ringnecks.

“We had a good winter and should have had good pheasant and quail survival. Every region in the state was below normal for snowfall, except the east central region and it was only one-inch above normal so we should be poised for an increase in bird numbers as long as we have a good nesting season,” Bogenschutz said. “It will be interesting to see the August roadside survey results.”

The two year reprieve to more normal winter snowfall is encouraging and there are steps landowners can take to help ensure the trend continues – plant shelterbelts and food plots.

Virtually all of Iowa’s winter mortality is attributed to persistent snows or blizzards with the birds dying of exposure, to predators or from the weather. Well designed shelterbelts provide important cover and food plots an additional food source to help pheasants, quail and other wildlife survive periods of prolonged or heavy snow.

A food plot associated with a shelterbelt likely improves survival because food plots provide additional winter habitat as well as food. Pheasants can get a meal quickly and limit their exposure to predators, maximizing their energy reserves. “If hens have good fat supplies coming out of the winter, they are more likely to nest successfully,” said Bogenschutz. [Read more…]