MARSHALL COUNTY, Iowa — Steve Armstrong likes everything he sees and hears about this year’s conditions.

Bird numbers, fields devoid of standing crops — even the chilly weekend forecast that could drop morning temperatures into the 30s.

“That doesn’t bother me a bit,” says the Marshall County hunter. “Cold bunches the birds up, the dogs work better — they don’t get hot and tired. It’s a blessing as far as I’m concerned.”

Armstrong represents Iowa’s District 5 counties on the state council of Pheasants Forever. He says a string of mild winters and good conservation have given Iowa’s pheasant numbers a healthy boost.

“I’ve been talking to some farmers up in the northern part of the county and they’ve been seeing a lot of young birds, so maybe last year we had a second hatch.”

With roadside count numbers up last year, Iowa hunters bagged roughly 370,000 birds — an excellent harvest. This summer, count numbers were up an additional 15%, according to the Iowa DNR.

After decades spent losing ground to neighboring states like South Dakota, Iowa’s pheasant conditions have been on the comeback trail.

“I contribute that to the Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever for their land acquisitions and putting land out for people to use,” Armstrong says. “Not just for hunting but for everything else.”

Armstrong says the one thing that could make this weekend’s opener even better is something Iowa’s non-hunters want no part of in October.

“I want snow!” he says. “You can kind of see the tracks where the pheasants have been moving around in the grass and also when the birds are moving it leaves a scent on the ground for the dogs to pick up and the dogs work a lot better when it’s wet or snowy.”

Iowa’s pheasant season opens at 8 a.m. Saturday.