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There's Hope for Iowa's Pheasant Population

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December 04, 2012

There's Hope for Iowa's Pheasant Population

By Phil Bourjaily

Iowa’s pheasant population is a fraction of what it once was, but there is still hope for the birds to come back.

One hunt I went on near home in eastern Iowa last month was like stepping into a time warp, although it took me back fewer than 10 years. In a half-day four of us shot 11 wild roosters on the farms of Pheasants Forever’s State Coordinator Tom Fuller and his neighbors.

Great a day as it was it was no different from dozens of hunts I enjoyed in the 1990s and into the middle of the last decade in Iowa. One million bird harvests used to be the norm out here, putting us on a par with South Dakota. Small towns across the state held early morning opening day pancake breakfasts. Iowa attracted up to 50,000 non-resident hunters.
 
No more. Iowa’s pheasant numbers have been in free fall for the past five years due to cold, wet weather and habitat destruction prompted by high grain prices. In 2011 Iowans bagged slightly over 100,000 birds—10 percent of what we used to shoot. I know now how southern quail hunters my age feel. I too have watched an upland tradition fade out in a wingbeat.

As the hunt at Fuller’s showed, all is not yet lost in Iowa. We had a mild winter and dry spring which gave our remaining birds a break and a good nesting season. If pheasants have good habitat like the ground we hunted,* having lots of birds is easy. After the hunt Fuller—a self-described “glass half-full guy” talked about PF’s plans for Iowa.

The focus of Pheasants Forever’s newest initiative with the Iowa DNR calls for managing selected Wildlife Management Areas for pheasants and using those acres as “hubs” building habitat around them by working with adjacent landowners.

“Iowa used to be a mosaic of grain, pasture and sloughs,” said Fuller. “Now the habitats are fragmented.”

Instead of corners of cover everywhere, now there are islands of grass and brush amidst biological deserts of rowcrops with all the cover removed to grow a few more bushels of corn. The goal is to build outward and create areas of connected habitat.*  I have no doubt the initiative will work. I do doubt Iowa will ever have pheasants everywhere again—we have simply lost too many acres to the bulldozer and the plow—but I also believe there will be pockets of habitat where you can have a hunts just like the Good Old Days way back in 2003.

[Want to learn more about pheasant hunting? Click here to take our pheasant hunting quiz.]

*On the land we hunted Fuller and his neighbors plant food plots, nesting and roosting cover. They do no active predator control, which Fuller believes is ineffective and inefficient. “I don’t worry about predators like hawks and coyotes that take individual adult birds in the fall,” he said. “Nest predation is a concern but the best defense against it is “dilution,” the creation of large areas of habitat that make it harder for predators to find nesting birds.” I would second that: I have been lucky enough to hunt on farms with great pheasant numbers and not a single one of those landowners practiced predator control or trapped. Habitat is the answer.

CC image from Wikipedia.

Comments (17)

Top Rated
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from Amflyer wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

I was lucky enough to live in SW. Iowa during 94-98. I remember literally seeing picked cornfields with hundreds of birds feeding...after the season ended. Good old days indeed.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dale freeman wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

I really hope that everyone, everyone, will get behind helping to maintain a healthy habitat for Pheasants.
Here in Louisiana I was an avid Quail hunter, even putting myself in the hospital, one season, from fatigue.
But, I sat and watched the Quail and habitat disapear.
Now there is no open quail hunting, only pay as you go.
The few times I triad that I felt so ashamed and depressed, I got sick to my stomack.
You can bet, once the pheasants are gone, they're gone for good.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from z41 wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

I hope you are right. I grew up hunting in the late 50's on a small N.E. Iowa farm. The corn topped out at 5' and weeds covered the fields. This fall I helped harvest 1000 acres of corn: 2 hens-2 deer-7 rabbits-0 coyotes-6 coon-NO weeds, I've never seen such clean fields. I know what Dale Freeman means, for me the guns are now silent.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

That's great, Phil. Just goes to show what hunters cand do when they put their minds to it. It's too bad that other states do not follow lead. Here in the Northeast we are virtually without a wild population of pheasants. Just like Iowa farming methods changed in the 60's and pratically wiped out what was a thriving population. nowadays shooting a wild pheasant is a true event. altho some states do stock pen raised birds they do not make thru the winter months because they just do not know how to survive ouside in the wild. Ohio has been stocking wild hares for years but as far as I know it has not worked out very well. These days we hear very little about whether the stocking program has been a succes or not. Personally I would much rather see the ODNR stock wild pheasants to reintroduce a wild huntable population

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

I watched a Pheasants Forever segment, and was very interested to hear what "favorable habitat" for pheasants is. Most folks would not understand it, including myself. It takes more than just good cover.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Harold wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

I'm sorry Phil, I cannot be optimistic about the future. What you alluded to was that most of the CRP lands have been plowed up to grow corn and other crops. CRP essentially paid farmers not to plant marginal crop land, which led to big increases in all sorts of wildlife, including many game species. With the need to balance the federal budget,I doubt the CRP program will ever be refunded, at least nowwhere near the level it once was. So even if crop prices go down, the incentive to leave some habitat alone will be gone.
The same sort of thing is happening here in Wyoming. Here, instead of corn it is ranchettes, mammoth wind farms and oil/gas fields. Our sage grouse and mule deer numbers are taking a nose dive and I kinda doubt it will get better.
Unless ALL of us hunters band together to protect EVERYONE'S game habitat, hunting in the USA, at least as we have known it, faces a dismal future. We have been divided and now are being conquored!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Good post Harold. I just travelled for 28 miles out through good sharptail, and Hungarian Partridge land that use to be available to hunt, and now is owned by the windfarm guys...and all posted. Windfarms that are subsidized, and aren't profitable, and need taxpayer subsidy. In other areas I hunt for huns on CRP land I find the CRP is no longer any good for bird habitat. Farmers were subsidized years back, and the CRP needs plowed, and disced up every so many years, and re-planted. Now it looks the same, but a yellow harsh stemmy weed takes over, and is virtually worthless for game birds. I told my wife after coming back from a hunt the other day, that is probably the big contributor to much fewer covies of Huns. And we still vote for bigger, and bigger centralized govt. that takes us deaper, and deaper into debt, and these programs go unfunded.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tunadave wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Having just returned from northern Iowa, let me tell you how it stands.

They are in the midst of a drought. Nearly all the ditches, ponds and drainages were bone dry. Small lakes were only cracked mud. They are still aggressively tiling every field to ensure that every square foot that may be threatened with excess moisture won't be. And yet, even with drought conditions, my friend's brother-in-law harvested 185 bu/acre of corn. At ~$8 a bushel.

In the past, we have hunted the ditches and prairie grasslands for pheasants. We also hunted grass strips that were left along river banks to eliminate erosion. Well, the grass strips along the rivers were still there, but about half as wide; the plows got an extra 40' along the rivers. They also plowed right to the VERY LIP of the roadside ditches to gain extra corn ground. CRP (set aside land which has marginal production) was also being plowed down for corn. Nearly all fencerows already have been removed or were being cut down and burned to gain extra corn ground.

If you go out there after it's snowed and the wind has been blowing (which it always seems to do), the snow is black in many areas with windblown eroded soil. The quality of most of the soil there is positively stunning; black, loose, and rich. And they shrug their shoulders and watch it blow away.

We had great hunting at a dairy farm near a small town where the farmer intelligently manages his ground. Land was terraced on the slopes, and the wet areas were left alone. He allows only certain people to hunt there, and always wants to know how many were shot and seen. The place was loaded with birds because he doesn't strip the land bare. As we were driving away, my friend remarked that the quarter section of corn ground across the road had just sold. It was good ground, but not the best we had seen. I asked him how much it sold for. He said $18,400 PER ACRE. Really good ground goes for about $25,000 per acre.

You can't blame most of the crop farmers for trying to make a living. But as long as we continue to mandate corn-based ethanol use in gasoline and prop up the price of commodities with government subsidies instead of allowing unsubsidized corn to float on the open market to find it's real value, we're going to continue to have this problem. And the land and its inhabitants will continue to suffer. I'm not an eco-freak, but this is just criminal.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Corn based ethonal! Boy does that get my dander up! I had one, ONE gas station that didn't include it in my metro area. That was my station. Then my SUV went from around 24 MPG to 20 MPG, and I find out that they had switched over to the ethonal included gas! Water shortages, higher food prices! And these politicians are looking out for us?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Guys, You can thank Algore and his friends for this green BS. They have infiltrated just about every Fed Guv agency and they think they are saving the planet. If they can stop hunting they consider that a twofer.
Phil, Kansas had great pheasant hunting back when I first moved here in the 70's. Back then we had wheat that grew 3 or 4 feet tall and you could find birds in the stubblefields. Now the wheat is all been modified to boost yield and is only about 18 inches tall before harvest. The stubble is too short to hide a pheasant. Our cornfields have no weeds and the combines cut it to the ground again no cover. Three years ago made my last trip to Western Kansas to hunt birds. Hunting all day for 2 or 3 shots just isn't worth 3 tanks of fuel plus motel etc. It's not the same but we hunt at shooting preserves. Some like Ed Davis Shooting Preserve near Edgerton MO are pretty good. The cost is also actually less than going West on a wild bird chase.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hutter wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Herbicides and pesticides are the real culprits. These are ingested by all pheasants. It affects the hen pheasants ability to produce a thick enough shell to go through the laying process. Until all these chemicals are forbidden or controlled better the populations will continue to decline. Pheasants have weathered the weather since time began, so I don't see a correlation.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hutter wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

The same as it has in good ole Illinois. None to be found!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Very sad, but true stories you guys have to tell. I dream of hitting the lotto, and buying a piece of land the size of the Ponderoza, and having the experts provide me advise, and I becoming a part of creating the habitat that has game birds everywhere. That has what it takes for game birds to breed, and create young, that has cover, and food plots, wind rows to survive the Winter. My dilema then would be what to do about the prey animals?..the birds of prey, the fox and the coyotes etc. I doubt I would do the right thing, and allow them to be, and be a part of it. Then who would I allow to hunt on the property? I sure would have a list of folks I would NOT allow on the property that is for sure.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

tuandave -- your report from Iowa is distressingly accurate.
The amount of habitat destruction just these past two years is unbelievable. I try to be optimistic. We will always have pockets of birds in Iowa and the strategy of building out around strongholds of cover in WMAs is a realistic one given the loss of private land cover.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kingofbirds wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Very sad, but true stories you guys have to tell. I dream of hitting the lotto, and buying a piece of land the size of the Ponderoza, and having the experts provide me advise, and I becoming a part of creating the habitat that has game birds everywhere. That has what it takes for game birds to breed, and create young, that has cover, and food plots, wind rows to survive the Winter. My dilema then would be what to do about the prey animals?..the birds of prey, the fox and the coyotes etc. I doubt I would do the right thing, and allow them to be, and be a part of it. Then who would I allow to hunt on the property? I sure would have a list of folks I would NOT allow on the property that is for sure.
www.vogue-tec.com
www.vogo-tec.com

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Here is a major problem with WMA's. I'm there one day when the plant truck shows up. I like to hunt WMA's because the land cover is so exceptional on my WMA's to work my dogs. The truck puts out the birds, and they fly exceptionally well, high, and far. One lands not far from me, and off towards it with my dogs I go..now the bird can't fly!! It short hops like it has been shot! But it has not been shot. Why they do that I can only guess...too heavy a birds?, and they exhausted themselves during release, I dunno, but my dogs didn't wound it. I find this is the norm. Guys that miss on a flying bird, just head for where it landed because it now can not fly! And what is also the norm is if they don't get shot by gunners in the first few hours birds of prey are likely to get them. I have had this verified by game officials, and why they don't put them out a day before, and after hours. The best, by far is wild bird populations, and they are just dramatically in decline as has been stated. Pheasants Forever did just purchase (year or so ago) a huge tract of land they will build wild populations of pheasants on. I hope I see the day that takes place.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tunadave wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Phil,
I live in Michigan and three of us have been traveling to Iowa for the last seven years or so to hunt pheasants. Pheasants in Michigan, unless you know someone with private ground in a well managed area, are nearly nonexistent. Even seeing a hen is a big deal. Yes, we are fortunate to have some areas of private land in Iowa we can hunt through door knocking and friendships we've forged over the years, but most of the birds we shoot are taken on public land that has been managed for upland by the Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever. They do an outstanding job. Even though it isn't your "glory days" anymore, we still do okay. As you say, pockets of cover, which we have discovered through a lot of footwork and windshield time. I do think in spite of all the habitat destruction we witnessed this year, had we had better weather (some snow or rainy mornings) to hold the birds in the cover longer we would have done a lot better. We watched a lot of roosters coming in to roost after shooting time ended, but it was so dry that they had already gone out of the cover to feed before 8AM. I can't verify this because I didn't physically see it, but my brother said that he had friends coming back from the Dakotas nearly empty handed, and that N.Dakota was burning a lot of their CRP in preparation to plowing it down for crops. We still think we can get it done in Iowa. The hospitality of your residents is world class, and even your marginal bird cover is better than most of our best.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from hutter wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Herbicides and pesticides are the real culprits. These are ingested by all pheasants. It affects the hen pheasants ability to produce a thick enough shell to go through the laying process. Until all these chemicals are forbidden or controlled better the populations will continue to decline. Pheasants have weathered the weather since time began, so I don't see a correlation.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Amflyer wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

I was lucky enough to live in SW. Iowa during 94-98. I remember literally seeing picked cornfields with hundreds of birds feeding...after the season ended. Good old days indeed.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Harold wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

I'm sorry Phil, I cannot be optimistic about the future. What you alluded to was that most of the CRP lands have been plowed up to grow corn and other crops. CRP essentially paid farmers not to plant marginal crop land, which led to big increases in all sorts of wildlife, including many game species. With the need to balance the federal budget,I doubt the CRP program will ever be refunded, at least nowwhere near the level it once was. So even if crop prices go down, the incentive to leave some habitat alone will be gone.
The same sort of thing is happening here in Wyoming. Here, instead of corn it is ranchettes, mammoth wind farms and oil/gas fields. Our sage grouse and mule deer numbers are taking a nose dive and I kinda doubt it will get better.
Unless ALL of us hunters band together to protect EVERYONE'S game habitat, hunting in the USA, at least as we have known it, faces a dismal future. We have been divided and now are being conquored!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tunadave wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Having just returned from northern Iowa, let me tell you how it stands.

They are in the midst of a drought. Nearly all the ditches, ponds and drainages were bone dry. Small lakes were only cracked mud. They are still aggressively tiling every field to ensure that every square foot that may be threatened with excess moisture won't be. And yet, even with drought conditions, my friend's brother-in-law harvested 185 bu/acre of corn. At ~$8 a bushel.

In the past, we have hunted the ditches and prairie grasslands for pheasants. We also hunted grass strips that were left along river banks to eliminate erosion. Well, the grass strips along the rivers were still there, but about half as wide; the plows got an extra 40' along the rivers. They also plowed right to the VERY LIP of the roadside ditches to gain extra corn ground. CRP (set aside land which has marginal production) was also being plowed down for corn. Nearly all fencerows already have been removed or were being cut down and burned to gain extra corn ground.

If you go out there after it's snowed and the wind has been blowing (which it always seems to do), the snow is black in many areas with windblown eroded soil. The quality of most of the soil there is positively stunning; black, loose, and rich. And they shrug their shoulders and watch it blow away.

We had great hunting at a dairy farm near a small town where the farmer intelligently manages his ground. Land was terraced on the slopes, and the wet areas were left alone. He allows only certain people to hunt there, and always wants to know how many were shot and seen. The place was loaded with birds because he doesn't strip the land bare. As we were driving away, my friend remarked that the quarter section of corn ground across the road had just sold. It was good ground, but not the best we had seen. I asked him how much it sold for. He said $18,400 PER ACRE. Really good ground goes for about $25,000 per acre.

You can't blame most of the crop farmers for trying to make a living. But as long as we continue to mandate corn-based ethanol use in gasoline and prop up the price of commodities with government subsidies instead of allowing unsubsidized corn to float on the open market to find it's real value, we're going to continue to have this problem. And the land and its inhabitants will continue to suffer. I'm not an eco-freak, but this is just criminal.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dale freeman wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

I really hope that everyone, everyone, will get behind helping to maintain a healthy habitat for Pheasants.
Here in Louisiana I was an avid Quail hunter, even putting myself in the hospital, one season, from fatigue.
But, I sat and watched the Quail and habitat disapear.
Now there is no open quail hunting, only pay as you go.
The few times I triad that I felt so ashamed and depressed, I got sick to my stomack.
You can bet, once the pheasants are gone, they're gone for good.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from z41 wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

I hope you are right. I grew up hunting in the late 50's on a small N.E. Iowa farm. The corn topped out at 5' and weeds covered the fields. This fall I helped harvest 1000 acres of corn: 2 hens-2 deer-7 rabbits-0 coyotes-6 coon-NO weeds, I've never seen such clean fields. I know what Dale Freeman means, for me the guns are now silent.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

That's great, Phil. Just goes to show what hunters cand do when they put their minds to it. It's too bad that other states do not follow lead. Here in the Northeast we are virtually without a wild population of pheasants. Just like Iowa farming methods changed in the 60's and pratically wiped out what was a thriving population. nowadays shooting a wild pheasant is a true event. altho some states do stock pen raised birds they do not make thru the winter months because they just do not know how to survive ouside in the wild. Ohio has been stocking wild hares for years but as far as I know it has not worked out very well. These days we hear very little about whether the stocking program has been a succes or not. Personally I would much rather see the ODNR stock wild pheasants to reintroduce a wild huntable population

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

I watched a Pheasants Forever segment, and was very interested to hear what "favorable habitat" for pheasants is. Most folks would not understand it, including myself. It takes more than just good cover.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Good post Harold. I just travelled for 28 miles out through good sharptail, and Hungarian Partridge land that use to be available to hunt, and now is owned by the windfarm guys...and all posted. Windfarms that are subsidized, and aren't profitable, and need taxpayer subsidy. In other areas I hunt for huns on CRP land I find the CRP is no longer any good for bird habitat. Farmers were subsidized years back, and the CRP needs plowed, and disced up every so many years, and re-planted. Now it looks the same, but a yellow harsh stemmy weed takes over, and is virtually worthless for game birds. I told my wife after coming back from a hunt the other day, that is probably the big contributor to much fewer covies of Huns. And we still vote for bigger, and bigger centralized govt. that takes us deaper, and deaper into debt, and these programs go unfunded.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Corn based ethonal! Boy does that get my dander up! I had one, ONE gas station that didn't include it in my metro area. That was my station. Then my SUV went from around 24 MPG to 20 MPG, and I find out that they had switched over to the ethonal included gas! Water shortages, higher food prices! And these politicians are looking out for us?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Guys, You can thank Algore and his friends for this green BS. They have infiltrated just about every Fed Guv agency and they think they are saving the planet. If they can stop hunting they consider that a twofer.
Phil, Kansas had great pheasant hunting back when I first moved here in the 70's. Back then we had wheat that grew 3 or 4 feet tall and you could find birds in the stubblefields. Now the wheat is all been modified to boost yield and is only about 18 inches tall before harvest. The stubble is too short to hide a pheasant. Our cornfields have no weeds and the combines cut it to the ground again no cover. Three years ago made my last trip to Western Kansas to hunt birds. Hunting all day for 2 or 3 shots just isn't worth 3 tanks of fuel plus motel etc. It's not the same but we hunt at shooting preserves. Some like Ed Davis Shooting Preserve near Edgerton MO are pretty good. The cost is also actually less than going West on a wild bird chase.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hutter wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

The same as it has in good ole Illinois. None to be found!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Very sad, but true stories you guys have to tell. I dream of hitting the lotto, and buying a piece of land the size of the Ponderoza, and having the experts provide me advise, and I becoming a part of creating the habitat that has game birds everywhere. That has what it takes for game birds to breed, and create young, that has cover, and food plots, wind rows to survive the Winter. My dilema then would be what to do about the prey animals?..the birds of prey, the fox and the coyotes etc. I doubt I would do the right thing, and allow them to be, and be a part of it. Then who would I allow to hunt on the property? I sure would have a list of folks I would NOT allow on the property that is for sure.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

tuandave -- your report from Iowa is distressingly accurate.
The amount of habitat destruction just these past two years is unbelievable. I try to be optimistic. We will always have pockets of birds in Iowa and the strategy of building out around strongholds of cover in WMAs is a realistic one given the loss of private land cover.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kingofbirds wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Very sad, but true stories you guys have to tell. I dream of hitting the lotto, and buying a piece of land the size of the Ponderoza, and having the experts provide me advise, and I becoming a part of creating the habitat that has game birds everywhere. That has what it takes for game birds to breed, and create young, that has cover, and food plots, wind rows to survive the Winter. My dilema then would be what to do about the prey animals?..the birds of prey, the fox and the coyotes etc. I doubt I would do the right thing, and allow them to be, and be a part of it. Then who would I allow to hunt on the property? I sure would have a list of folks I would NOT allow on the property that is for sure.
www.vogue-tec.com
www.vogo-tec.com

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Here is a major problem with WMA's. I'm there one day when the plant truck shows up. I like to hunt WMA's because the land cover is so exceptional on my WMA's to work my dogs. The truck puts out the birds, and they fly exceptionally well, high, and far. One lands not far from me, and off towards it with my dogs I go..now the bird can't fly!! It short hops like it has been shot! But it has not been shot. Why they do that I can only guess...too heavy a birds?, and they exhausted themselves during release, I dunno, but my dogs didn't wound it. I find this is the norm. Guys that miss on a flying bird, just head for where it landed because it now can not fly! And what is also the norm is if they don't get shot by gunners in the first few hours birds of prey are likely to get them. I have had this verified by game officials, and why they don't put them out a day before, and after hours. The best, by far is wild bird populations, and they are just dramatically in decline as has been stated. Pheasants Forever did just purchase (year or so ago) a huge tract of land they will build wild populations of pheasants on. I hope I see the day that takes place.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tunadave wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Phil,
I live in Michigan and three of us have been traveling to Iowa for the last seven years or so to hunt pheasants. Pheasants in Michigan, unless you know someone with private ground in a well managed area, are nearly nonexistent. Even seeing a hen is a big deal. Yes, we are fortunate to have some areas of private land in Iowa we can hunt through door knocking and friendships we've forged over the years, but most of the birds we shoot are taken on public land that has been managed for upland by the Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever. They do an outstanding job. Even though it isn't your "glory days" anymore, we still do okay. As you say, pockets of cover, which we have discovered through a lot of footwork and windshield time. I do think in spite of all the habitat destruction we witnessed this year, had we had better weather (some snow or rainy mornings) to hold the birds in the cover longer we would have done a lot better. We watched a lot of roosters coming in to roost after shooting time ended, but it was so dry that they had already gone out of the cover to feed before 8AM. I can't verify this because I didn't physically see it, but my brother said that he had friends coming back from the Dakotas nearly empty handed, and that N.Dakota was burning a lot of their CRP in preparation to plowing it down for crops. We still think we can get it done in Iowa. The hospitality of your residents is world class, and even your marginal bird cover is better than most of our best.

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