PHEASANT HUNTING SEASON is here. For many hunters, they have been waiting for this day for a year. However, planning and preparation for another pheasant season continued throughout the year. The equipment needed to be inspected and maybe new items needed to be purchased. Likewise, shotguns have been kept handy with practice on clay targets in a shooting range or during clay court sporting activities. Dog training is a year round effort to keep our canine friends healthy and eager to follow in the scent trails of pheasants. Habitat projects are also a year-round process to plan, buy seeds, get the equipment in the field at the right time to prepare food plots and then do some maintenance on those plots. , if necessary, to make the cover suitable for laying hens. And the best part of long-term habitat work projects is ensuring adequate winter cover for these game birds when the harshness of winter hits us in January, February and March.
Pheasant “season” is therefore a one-year effort embellished with a real hunt as a reward when the calendar dates at the end of October and November indicate that the opening day has arrived. Iowa laws and hunting regulations follow both a tradition of opening towards the end of October or the beginning of November, depending on variations in the calendar. And another tradition has been the daily start and end times, which is 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In 2021, daylight saving time changes on Sunday, November 7. Sometimes the time change occurs on the same weekend as the pheasant hunt. When it comes to hunting start time, many states may have a sunrise to sunset rule. But with each state with its own rule-making guidelines, Iowa has an 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. regulation not only for pheasants but also for quail and gray partridge.
Another constant rule is the allocation of three rooster pheasants per day per hunter. A possession limit is twelve after the fourth day of the season. License requirements include a resident or non-resident hunting license, habitat fees for hunters aged 16 to 64, and proof of your license on you. Bright orange clothing is essential, primarily to allow other hunters to see other hunters, a common sense safety feature. This garment can be a hat, cap, waistcoat, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or jumpsuit. When transporting dead roosters, identification for these pheasants of a fully feathered head, foot or wing must be retained. Dressing roosters in the field is acceptable, but the above mentioned identifiers should be left attached.
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: The genus Phasianus, true pheasant, is native to Southeast Asia. What we know as the collared pheasant in Iowa has been classified as Phasianus Colchicus Torquatus. The name suggests a cross between two true Asian pheasants. One is the Caucasian Rion (black-necked) pheasant native to the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This species has links to the true Chinese pheasant found in eastern China and northwest Indochina.
COLLAR PHASE HISTORY: Iowa is not the homeland of the collared pheasants. China is the natural territory of this colorful highland bird. In 1882, a man named Owen Denny brought his collection of pheasants to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. An accidental release of caged birds occurred as a result of a windstorm that opened the nets of the bird cages. Birds reared in enclosures were never fully recaptured. These pheasants loved what they found in the wild and thrived quite well. And later, as news of the pheasants’ success spread to other parts of the country, it was another windstorm on the farm of Cedar Falls farmer William Benton in the early 1900s that brought about the liberation. 2,000 pheasants.
By 1913, the Iowa Conservation Commission, the forerunner of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, was well engaged in the breeding of pheasants and the storage of these birds at various release sites. However, the results were mixed, as the birds raised in pens were not as savvy about the means of survival at the time. Even with all this, the Conservation Commission in 1924 and 1925 was experimenting with the trapping and movement of wild birds and eggs in southern Iowa.
The first season of the Iowa pheasant was short, October 20-22, 1925, in several counties in north-central Iowa. Hunting hours were half an hour before sunrise until noon with a limit of three roosters. In part, this first hunting season was in response to complaints of crop damage allegedly inflicted by pheasants. The evidence wasn’t that important, just guilt by association.
The state farm closed in 1932. It was decided to reopen the pen breeding program in 1938 after several years of bad weather. Wild pheasants survived and continued to grow slowly throughout much of Iowa through the 1940s and 1950s. The state’s game bird farm closed permanently in 1973 after it became apparent that birds kept in enclosures did not make a viable contribution to wild populations.
Populations of wild pheasants fluctuate with changes in weather and habitat conditions. Federal land set-aside programs called the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) helped create prairie habitat between 1985 and 1996. However, as these programs struggled to compete with commodity prices, CRP contracts have declined considerably. Habitat meadows are and remain a huge piece of the puzzle for pheasants.
If there is one more factor than any other that affects pheasants the most, it is the weather. Cold, snowy winters reduce marginal habitat, force the concentration of birds into pockets of remaining habitat, and allow predator exploitation more easily. The following spring, the habitats left to serve the pheasants were reduced to road ditches, terraces and grassed waterways. Spring rains runoff into streams puts nesting hens in a bad spot.
“In the end, the weather is at the top of the list when it comes to the survival of the hens and the success of their nesting”, Todd Bogenschlutz, Iowa DNR highland bird biologist, said. “Tell me the amount of snow, the amount of rain, and the air temperature trends in the spring, and I can tell you if the number of pheasants will increase or decrease later this summer.” Weather models are also accurate. We now have weather models to illustrate trends in bird populations, increasing or decreasing, depending on mild or severe winters, and light or heavy spring rains.
You can support the FEASANTS FOREVER organization on Saturday 6 November. The location of a fundraising event is in Marshalltown at the Midnight Ballroom, 1700 South Center St. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $ 80 per adult after November 2. Tickets are cheaper, at $ 65, if you call now at 641-751-1668 or 641-751-4487. Doors open at 5 p.m. Activities include visits with old and new friends, table games, and bargain hunting at silent and live auctions. A good meal will be served before the auction. Funds raised remain locally in PF’s Marshall / Tama County area to help support housing projects and programs.