Pheasant Stocking Won’t Help Iowa

March 14, 2012 | By | 6 Replies More

Iowa has had the quintuple whammy when it comes to pheasants. Bad winters, bad springs, bad forecasts, less hunting and less habitat.

In an attempt to shift the momentum the other way, the Iowa Legislature is mulling over a bill for a pheasant-stocking in southern Iowa. Problem is, pheasant folks say that won’t work: Improve the habitat and the birds will stock themselves. Another problem: So far the legislature wants outdoors folk to pay for it…even if that’s not what they want (surprise!).

Here’s more, from an article at

> The Iowa House passed the legislation, House File 2247, 95-0, last week. The Senate is expected to consider a companion bill, Senate File 2253, as early as this week. The bill would direct the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to stock pheasants at a single southern Iowa site and compare the results to a similar unstocked spot in that part of the state to see if it made a difference.

> A provision in the House measure requires that the study be privately funded. But those who would most likely be asked to help pay for the effort, including sporting and conservation groups, are not enthusiastic, saying it would take money and time away from more important work needed to improve habitat so the state’s once burgeoning pheasant population can rebound on its own.

> Jim Wooley, a biologist for Pheasants Forever, said studies done since the 1970s show that stocking pheasants doesn’t significantly change the populations. Wooley’s studies, including one in the late 1970s at three sites, found…”study areas fluctuated similar to populations on nearby areas that received no stocking,” said Wooley, who previously worked for the DNR.

> Wooley, who owns an acreage in…southern Iowa, has planted and managed his own land specifically to benefit pheasants, songbirds and other wildlife. “I would never consider stocking pheasants on my land because it is a waste of time and money,” Wooley said.

> Todd Bogenschutz, the Iowa DNR’s top pheasant authority, agrees the effort is a waste. “I kind of scratch my head a little bit,” Bogenschutz said. “Hunters are not saying ‘you need to do more research.’ They are telling me to fix the problem. We should be focusing on the habitat and things that work.”

> Former Iowa Department of Natural Resources chief Jeff Vonk, who now heads a similar agency in South Dakota, said he, too, is skeptical. “People need to know that stocking really doesn’t work,” said Vonk.

> “Stocking is prohibitively expensive,” he said. Wild birds can cost $10 each, and even pen-raised pheasants cost $3 to $4 apiece. Plus, “Those birds just don’t survive,” Vonk said.

> State Sen. Dick Dearden of Des Moines, whose committee endorsed the bill, said he’s been under pressure from hunters to support stocking. But Dearden, who’s also a member of Pheasants Forever, agreed it’s a bad idea. He said he voted for the proposal hoping one more study would persuade backers to stop asking the state to stock pheasants.

> The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Richard Arnold, R-Russell, said he fears the pheasants have dropped to such low numbers that they won’t come back without a stocking program.
“Hunters are getting sick of hearing habitat, habitat and weather,” he said. “They have heard that for 10 years and we still don’t have any pheasants. We have to try something.”


On the plus side, there was recent good news about the Conservation Reserve Program. Read it here at Pheasants Forever’s website.


Category: CRP, Habitat Conservation, IA, Stocking

Comments (6)

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  1. I wonder how those pheasants got there to begin with? Did they fly from China? Hmmm…

    It took 19 years of stocking to establish the pheasant population in North Dakota.

    Even if areas struggling with numbers elect not to stock to re-establish wild populations, they need to at least consider a put-and-take strategy if they want to maintain the sport.

    • lucas says:

      ^^i really like this post, can you give some sources? i’d be interested in reading up on the north dakota stuff.

  2. It is truly about habitat! And the price you gave for pen raised birds is super cheap! I have not been able to buy birds anywhere close to that price range or raise them from chicks for that price because of feed cost. When are we going to stop with the ethonal craze? It drives prices up in the stores for food! It is not good for our cars and it is not good for mother earth as it takes more habitat out of the fields for our wildlife. I cannot believe it helps farmers that much either because of high cost of fuel. I wonder if the gov. did not help pay the cost to produce it I wonder the number of ethenol plants that could make it on there own?

  3. Bill Fontanazza says:

    Habitiat development and preservation is the first priority, second predator depletement, third decreased harvest. After you accomplish the first three tasks then you can stock and expect a small increase in your wild bird population. If the states would allow better predator control measures ( both avian and mammal) we would see our bird and small mammal populations incrase.
    The only thing you can’t control is the weather. More chicks and young birds are lost to weather then at the end of a shotgun barrel.

  4. wink windsor says:

    Good habitat and naturally reproducing wild birds are undoubtedly the best answer.

    But we shouldn’t forget Ringnecks, Huns and Chukars are all non-native birds that at one time or another in the past were in fact stoked.

    So if a particular area is low on birds why not stock them for the local guys who don’t have private land to hunt or the means for a $3,000 trip to some South Dakota world class lodge?
    Surely some of the birds will survive to breed again.

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