Iowa has hosed 30,000 to 50,000 nonresidents in years past. They stayed for days in small town hotels, ate in cafés down the street and bought supplies from local stores; a multi-million dollar revenue stream that Iowa no long has. Who were these 30,000 to 50,000 people coming to Iowa? These were the out of state pheasant hunters coming to what use to be known as "Pheasant Capital of North America." In the past few years the decline of the pheasant population has led to the loss of a multi-million dollar business for the state. The solution to this problem may seem simple: bring the pheasant population back will bring back the hunters. However bring the pheasant population back up is easier said than done.
There are two major components to maintaining or growing the pheasant population, weather and habitat. We have no control over Mother Nature which makes the first part of the equation impossible for us to improve. In the "2011 IOWA AUGUST ROADSIDE SURVEY" prepared by Tom Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist, Mark McInroy, upland wildlife research technician, and Lile Kruger, administrative assistant, states "This marks the 5th consecutive winter in a row Iowa has received ~ 30 inches or more of snowfall. In the 50 yrs of standardized roadside counts Iowa has never seen 5 consecutive winters of this severity." It continues on to talk about the wet springs Iowa has seen, "The spring of 2011 did not offer any reprieve from the past 4 years with April and May both seeing above normal rainfall and below normal temperatures." Spring, being the nesting period for pheasants, needs to be warm and dry for chicks to have a successful survival rate.
As the first part of the pheasant equations is uncontrollable, the second part, habitat, is very controllable. As we have seen pheasant numbers fall over the years there has been a direct correlation with loss of habitat for them as well. An article put out by the Iowa DNR in October 2011 states, "From 1990 to 2005, Iowa lost 2,500 square miles of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), hay and small grain lands. That equals an eight-mile strip across Iowa from Davenport to Omaha." Loss of habitat, be it public land or private land, is never good for wildlife.
You may find yourself asking well how much money can actually be in hunting? Well according to an article in the Gazette, a Cedar Rapids Iowa newspaper, the sale of hunting license went from 189,137 in 2002 to 172,230 by 2010. With a hunting license cost for residents of Iowa of $19 a person, that is $3,593,603 down to $3,272,370, a loss of $321,233 for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This does not include any extra fees to hunt game such as migratory birds, deer, turkey, or fur bearing animals. Add on all the extra fees that are missing from the missing hunters and your loss of profit continues to go up.
So lets look back at the multi-million dollar business of nonresident hunters. The license for them before extra fees is $112. This is a loss of $3 million to $5 million in license alone. Think about how much money is not being spent anymore in the small towns, at the local cafes, in the hotels, and at the local supply shop. Bring back the pheasant populations with better habitat, hope for better winters and dryer springs, and bring back the out of state hunters.