The 2009 Iowa pheasant season is this coming weekend, opening officially at 8 a.m. today. This opener could definitely be one that favors the pheasants! I mean, all you have to do is look across the Iowa landscape and you'll see field after field of standing corn.
That means one thing to the pheasants: safety. It causes a lot of frustration for hunters, but also saves a lot of pheasants for mid and late-season outings. I think the hunters who have the most success will have access to good grassy roosting areas, some water and not be surrounded directly by standing corn fields. Instead, there might be a combined bean field or cut silage field nearby. I think they will do the best.
I recently spent three days (Oct. 17-19) pheasant hunting in north central South Dakota south of Aberdeen. The same conditions were true in South Dakota but only compounded even more because most of the bean fields were also still unharvested. Pheasant numbers are the fourth highest since counts began, but the hunting was tough. When the season opens at noon, the birds are pretty much gone from the grassy areas and roadsides and back in the standing corn. Even though the season runs until sunset each day, over the years we have never had to hunt that late. We have usually had our birds well before that.
We were fortunate that one of the areas we hunt had only soybeans around it. The nearest standing corn fields were nearly a mile away on all sides. That meant that even though the birds would be out in the bean fields, there still would be a lot that would move back into the grasses during the day.
As a result, we had a couple of really good early afternoon hunts there.
Meanwhile, huge standing cornfields on two sides and a road adjacent to more cornfields on the other two sides surrounded the other parcel we wanted to hunt. Five of us tried that Saturday right at noon for a couple of hours. The results: one rooster and lots of walking! That's when we hit the first field I mentioned earlier.
The second day we tried that grassy field surrounded by standing corn about 6 p.m. We arrived about 5 p.m. just to watch. By 5:30, they began to appear, flying out of the corn and landing in the grass-single pheasants, groups of five and six and sometimes even 10 or more- all working their way into the grass.
Wow! What a hunt that turned out to be. Certainly, many erupted out of range as we five hunters and our two dogs moved across the field. However, enough held close that we soon had our limit.
For me, it was way more than just a chance to travel to South Dakota to shoot a few pheasants. It was a chance for me to go back home to the area in which I was raised. Over the past four years this has been a great opportunity for my father-in-law and me to take four generations back to the place we still refer to as "home".
As for this coming weekend, we will be doing the same thing together here in northwest Iowa, a place we also refer to as "home."
Whatever happens, enjoy your time in the field. It's certainly about shooting a few birds, but it's even more about enjoyable memories with the people with whom you hunt.