During early mornings when the grass is wet with dew, pheasant chicks can be found along roads or in open spots within and along field edges. They want to stay dry and do not run through wet vegetation. This is a good time to pick up some needed grit and seed and insects along the road. They prefer open cover when feeding, but heavier cover for loafing during midday. Woody cover is valuable to broods for shade, and its use is proportional to how high the temperature is. Small trees and shrubs are used more frequently than tall trees and hedgerows. Broods use un-mowed grasslands and weedy cover for roosting.
When considering what you can do to help pheasants on your land, you probably first think of nesting cover and winter cover with food plots. Have you considered brood cover? Since brood cover generally consists of the nesting cover, little thought is given to specialized brood cover. But small plantings for the chicks may increase their survival over the standard grassy nesting areas. Since the chicks' diet is over 90% insects, the brood cover plantings should be plantings for insects. Annual weeds harbor more insects than perennials plants. Remember the winter food plot you planted this spring? Consider leaving half of it undisturbed next spring. By letting the annual weeds grow next spring you'll attract many insects into the old food plot. It may attract the grasshoppers that you hate and the chicks love, but it will also attract the beneficial insects you both need.
Summer is a time of relaxation for roosters but a tough time for hens. The cock has completed reproductive functions, his annual molt, and has no chicks to raise. The hen is busy trying a second or third time to hatch a first nest, or raising young, and beginning her molt. These drain the hen's energy reserves to their lowest level of the year. By August she will lose 25% of her April weight. More hens may die now than died last winter. Her chances of dying increases if she herself was hatched late last year, if last winter was severe, if this spring weather delayed her nesting, if she has had to re-nest again and again, and if this summer is hot.
To learn more about Pheasants Forever in your area, visit: www.iowapheasantsforever.org or contact Chapter President, Tim Haupert at (712-225-2711).