With the first cold winds and snowflakes of winter, pheasants begin to drift toward thicker cover. If shelterbelts, wetlands, idle grass areas, and crop fields are properly located, the pheasant need not move far to find protection. Ideally these cover types should be located within 0.2 miles of each other. The farther the bird has to travel, the worse the winter habitat.
While a pheasant could simply ruffle its feathers to stay warm in more hospitable temps, the cold of December requires the bird to start eating more food to stay warm. A pheasant can hold about 10 grams of food in its crop, and once it has finished eating for the day and went to roost, those seeds have passed through the crop in four to five hours. With winter nights a freezing 15 hours long, the pheasant still has 10 hours of darkness until breakfast.
To survive these long winter nights, pheasants need the quality roosting habitat of idle grasslands or wetland cover. The quality (thickness and height) of this habitat determines how much energy the birds need to stay warm ... in the same way that the quality of your windows and insulation determines how many cords of wood you will need to stay warm.
Pheasants Forever Chapters across the state provide food plot/winter cover mixes for landowners at no charge. Planting food plots near shrubby loafing cover and thick, tall grasses will help ensure we have healthy hens entering next spring.
To learn more about Pheasants Forever in your area, visit: HYPERLINK "http://www.iowapheasantsforever.org" www.iowapheasantsforever.org or contact Chapter President, Tim Haupert at 225-2711.