An estimated 50,000 blaze orange-clad hunters will dot Iowa?s countryside at 8 a.m. Saturday for the opening of Iowa?s 2017 pheasant hunting season.
This annual event melds generations of Iowans who reconnect with their hunting heritage. While most hunters will generally only spend the first week or two in the field, those who venture out later will likely be rewarded with success.
?Hunters can expect to find similar bird numbers to last year, but the October rain has our harvest running behind schedule so opening weekend may not be as successful as years past,? said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. ?However, a late harvest could lead to success later in the season.?
Results from the statewide August roadside survey indicate higher pheasant numbers were found in a line of counties stretching from northwest to southeast, but birds are available everywhere quality habitat is found.
Bogenschutz said he expects almost a repeat of 2016 pheasant season, where hunters harvested about 250,000 roosters.
Quail season opens Saturday, too
Iowa?s quail population is at a 30-year high and landowners report seeing quail in areas that they had not seen them in years, but the bulk of the quail population is in the southern three tiers of counties.
?Quail hunting is different than pheasant hunting. Quail are found in the shrubby patches near crop ground versus in fields of habitat,? Bogenschutz said. ?Quail hunters will have less competition so if someone wants to give it a try, I would encourage them to knock on doors to get permission, don?t be shy.?
Iowa?s partridge season opened Oct. 14. Partridge hunting primarily takes place in the north-central counties.
Places to hunt
The Iowa DNR?s online hunting atlas lists nearly 700,000 acres of public hunting land, including more than 20,000 acres of land enrolled in the Iowa Habitat for Access Program allowing hunter access to private land.
Each area on the atlas includes a link to a map with property boundaries, the size of the area, habitat type, species of wildlife likely found, if non-toxic shot is required and more. The map is available as a downloadable pdf that can be printed or saved to a smartphone.
To view the atlas, go to www.iowadnr.gov/hunting and click on ?Places to Hunt and Shoot? in the left column.
There are no new regulations this year.
? Shooting hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
? Hunters are required to wear one piece of blaze orange of which at least 50 percent must be solid color.
? Hunters can harvest three rooster pheasants each day with a possession limit of 12.
? Hunters can harvest eight quail of either sex each day with a possession limit of 16.
? When transporting pheasants, either a fully feathered head, fully feathered wing or foot must remain attached for identification purposes.