Brian Bauer of Willey drops a pheasant he’d downed near Carrollton.
Brian Bauer of Willey drops a pheasant he’d downed near Carrollton.
October 28, 2013

After hours in fields in Carroll and Guthrie counties on Saturday and Sunday's opening of the Iowa pheasant-hunting season, Russ Grossman of Carroll, his four sons and a nephew had six pheasants to show for their effort - far fewer than the limit allowed.

But that's OK. Russ Grossman said it was still a successful hunt. It extended a family tradition.

Grossman learned appreciation for hunting from grandparents, and now he's taking a family leadership role.

"We've been doing this for a number of years," he said. "Everybody comes home on Friday. Saturday morning, we have a nice, big breakfast, and then we head out and we hunt. When we're finished hunting for the day, we come home, have super and revisit how things went. It seems like there's always one funny event that happens while we're out."

He added, "My grandparents got me into the hunting, and my brothers-in-law liked to hunt. We got some hunting dogs and we've been doing this ever since."

On Saturday, the hunting party was made up of Grossman, his sons Chris and Michael, both of Carroll, Chad of Halbur and Matt of Adel, along with Russ' nephew Brian Bauer of Willey.

They worked fields and creek areas with four dogs - Molly and Macy, both Brittanies, Charlie, a black Lab, and LD, a Vizsia.

They downed four pheasants on Saturday and two on Sunday.

The windy weather and many fields of corn not yet harvested gave the pheasants an advantage.

"Once (pheasants) got up in that wind, they were scooting," Russ said. "With the corn factored in and the direction of the wind, there were a lot of areas you could work only one way. (The pheasants) had the upper hand, by all means. They're a little more skittish when the wind's blowing. They don't like to sit as long."

With season's harvest behind schedule, the corn gave the birds more cover.

"We hunt some CRP areas along the creeks," Grossman said, "but once (the pheasants) got out of their nesting areas and they got into that corn, there's just almost no way to get them out."

Grossman said he's looking forward to more hunting this season with his sons and other family members as their schedules allow.

"Then we always all get together the last weekend of the season," he said.

The Iowa pheasant season is open through Jan. 10.

A stretch of severe winters drastically reduced Iowa's pheasant population, but Grossman said he's hopeful for a comeback.

"We were pleased with the number of hens we saw," said Grossman, who's a field program coordinator for the Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau and was a member of the Carroll Volunteer Fire Department 13 to 14 years. "We saw probably two-thirds more hens (than roosters), so that's encouraging. They say (the population) is down. We've been very fortunate over the years. We hunt Guthrie and Carroll counties, and we've seen quite a few birds. But statewide, talking to friends, they don't see nearly as many as we do."

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources noted in its report after this August's roadside survey of ringneck pheasants that the state finally saw a break from a streak of five straight severe winters, however, this year's count was still down nearly 19 percent statewide from the 2012 estimate.

The report said, "This year's count matches the record low set in 2011. There was a lot of variability in the counts across the regions this year with no statistically significant trends in any survey region for total pheasants."

The report noted difficulty of poor weather conditions for the survey. Heavy dew mornings give more accurate population estimates.

The survey indicated, however, that the population in west-central Iowa, which includes Carroll-area counties increased 54.6 percent.

The report concluded, "Iowa pheasant hunters should harvest approximately 100,000-150,000 roosters this fall. Iowa currently has 1.6 million acres of CRP, and this level of habitat should support a 600,000-800,000 rooster harvest. Iowa needs to put four to five good winters and springs back to back to recover from the weather pattern experienced from 2007 through 2011. It will be very hard to recover Iowa pheasant numbers if significant habitat losses continue."

That habitat is being lost due to farmers putting CRP acres back into crop production to take advantage of favorable grain prices.