By Steve Weisman
You couldn’t have asked for better temperatures for the pheasant opener here in northwest Iowa. Temperatures were cool-just right for both hunters and dogs. The wind was up, but at least it wasn’t a gale like some years.
Standing corn was an issue in some areas, while in other areas, crops were out and the birds were in the grassy areas.
Our party of four included my son, son-in-law, grandson and myself. We hunted CRP ground near Graettinger with two Labrador retrievers. Most of the crops were out, although one adjacent cornfield was still in.
Even with the wind on Saturday, we found most of the birds held pretty tight. Overall, we saw probably 15 roosters and maybe 20 or so hens. By Hawkeye game time we had 10 roosters and called it quits to watch the game (plus, I had had enough walking!).
According to Rich Jordet, northwest Iowa Law Enforcement Supervisor, hunting success was kind of a “mixed bag” so to speak. “It was pretty much what I expected, pretty similar to last year. I checked around 40 hunters that had bagged 30 birds. Hunting pressure was very heavy in Palo Alto County around the Ruthven area and also in Dickinson County.”
The conservation officer in Kossuth County checked 85 hunters by noon on Saturday.
“Pressure on Sunday was much lower in all areas, but then that is pretty normal,” said Jordet.
In addition to Iowa hunters, hunters from other states included Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin.
DNR officials say that hunting pressure will be highest during the first two weekends of the season, and then around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Based on the results of Iowa’s upland game survey, hunters should expect to harvest 100,000 to 150,000 pheasants during the October 26-January 10 season.
Tips for a safe hunt
Megan Wisecup, Hunter Education Administrator for the Iowa DNR offers these tips for a safe hunt.
- Iowa law requires hunters to wear at least one of the following articles of visible, external apparel with at least 50 percent of its surface area solid blaze orange: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls.
- Hunters should stay in communication with each other and to stay in a straight line while pushing a field. Conservation officers have investigated a number of incidents where hunters have been in a semicircle and had been shooting towards one-another.
- Discuss the hunting plan that spells out how the hunt will take place, each person’s role in the hunt and where each person will be at all times.
- Make sure to unload the gun when crossing a fence or other obstacle to avoid it accidentally discharging.
- Properly identify the target and what is beyond it. This will be especially important for the next few weeks if hunting in fields that still have standing corn.
- If hunting with a dog, never lay a loaded gun against a fence. Hunting dogs are usually excited to be in the field and could knock the gun over causing it to discharge.
- Share the hunt. Take someone new along to help keep Iowa’s great hunting tradition alive.