Posts Tagged ‘pheasant food plots’

Frequently Asked Food and Cover Plot Questions

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Your autumn and winter food and cover plot starts in the spring. Now that planting season has arrived, you may haves questions about establishing your Pheasants Forever Signature Series Food and Cover mixes.

Why do I need food plots on my farm? High-quality grain food plots play a critical role in the relationship between food, cover, movement and winter bird mortality. The logic is simple. Locating well-planned food and cover plots adjacent to heavy roosting cover provides a dependable source of high-energy food. Having food right next door to winter cover helps establish safe foraging patterns, and minimizes movements – so predation and weather losses are reduced.

What makes PF food plot mixes special? Our biologists have developed Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever grain and forage mixes to provide the food and cover that the wildlife on your farm need. Through continual improvement of our products, we have formulated very specific blends that are adaptable to most growing conditions, and that maximize benefits for your wildlife.

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Larger food plots projects – 3 to 10 acres – typically provide the most benefit to upland wildlife. PF File Photo

Are specialized mixes worth the extra cost? Seed cost will likely be the smallest expense in your overall food plot spending, yet it is the foundation of your effort to improve food resources for wildlife. Buy the very best seed that you can for your food plots. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever food plot products come to you after extensive development and research, and following years of successful establishment on farms across the country. And they come to you with the full backing of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, two of the most respected private conservation organizations in the nation.

Must I use herbicides? Weed competition is the most serious threat your food plot will face. Thus, we recommend some sort of herbicide treatment. Food plots planted without weed control will have highly variable results. Weed problems can be addressed by tillage, chemical suppression, or a combination of both. A few weeds in a food plot will actually improve the diversity of the area for wildlife. However, severe weed competition that causes the primary planting to fail can waste your food plot investment, and puts your wildlife in a bad position when winter arrives. Pay attention to weed control recommendations on the bag for best results for your planting.

Do I need fertilizer? Food plots are a crop, and you should fertilize just as you would your garden. Nutrients in your planting area are easily assessed before the planting season with a simple soil test (farm co-ops, and/or USDA offices routinely do this at low cost), and you should amend the soil accordingly before you plant. Rotating grain food plots into areas previously established in legume browse may save money on nitrogen, but nearly all food plots need some supplemental nutrients. Legume food plots do not need nitrogen, but normally require some soil supplements to optimize the stand. Several PF/QF mixes carry micronutrient seed coatings to help our seed to get a jump on early growth. Even so, primary fertilization is almost always a must-do operation.

How do I decide which mixes are right for my farm? Examine your habitat objectives for your farm, what you would like to accomplish for wildlife, and what your desires are for hunting and wildlife viewing. Look particularly at winter food and cover conditions. If this habitat is limited, you will need grain food plots to assist game birds, and may benefit other wildlife by establishing browse plots, as well.

When is the best time to plant? Take cues from agricultural operations occurring in your area. While this will give you a general idea when to plant, not all types of seed can be planted at the same time. Detailed planting instructions are on the back of each Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever food plot mix. Read those guidelines carefully and follow them exactly.

What about planting my plot? Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever grain and green browse food plot mixes can be established with standard planters, grain drills, or with broadcast seeders mounted on a tractor, ATV or pickup truck. Complete planting instructions are on each bag. If you do not have your own equipment, it can often be rented from USDA offices, local implement dealers, and wildlife agencies. Pheasants Forever habitat specialists, private contractors, or a neighbor also may be able to assist you in planting your food plot. For more information on food plot design and other considerations consult the Pheasants Forever Essential Habitat Guide.

What’s the best design for my winter food plots? Grain food plots should restrict unnecessary travel, and provide high quality food and supplemental winter cover. Birds crossing hostile territory for food invite losses from predation and weather, so two critical design factors include locating food plots next to winter cover, and adequate size (3-4 acres or larger is best). Blocks will be preferable to linear plantings, and placement on the windward side of winter cover improves that habitat. If winter cover is scarce, 10-acre plantings of grain mixes with heavy leaf structure can provide all the food and shelter that birds need. In general, green browse plots will provide no winter cover for most upland birds, but will provide foraging areas for deer.

How large should my food plot be? Unfortunately we cannot predict when wildlife will most need supplemental winter food resources, so plan grain food plots for the worst case weather scenario, each and every year. Don’t create a project that will be buried by the first blizzard. Your food plots will be used by many kinds of wildlife. Deer and turkeys consume a lot of grain and will exhaust small food patches well before winter ends. Thus, larger food plots (3-10 acres) are always most desirable. Select a food plot mix based on the cover and food values you need, and carefully assess the critical factors of size and location for your farm.

How long will my food plot last? In general, a grain based food plot will last only a single season (particularly if deer use it heavily) and almost without fail you will need to re-establish this kind of plot annually. In rare instances of low wildlife use, the grain from one year will carry over to the next on the stalks. Allowing a plot like this to grow up into annual weeds provides excellent brood habitat. Green browse food plots (blends of clovers, alfalfa, etc.) may last several years or may need to be re-planted each year (combination leafy forage/root crops like turnips).

What other factors should I consider? Food plots alone are not going to “bring back the birds.” Well-placed food patches can help bring more hens through winter in better condition. At that point, however, the other habitats you have established on your farm (nesting cover, brood rearing habitat, etc.) will play the leading role. Be sure you focus on establishing and managing those important areas for wildlife as well.

To Feed or Not to Feed? Pheasants Forever Has Answers

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

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Location of food and cover plots is critical. Photo by Roger Hill

Each year as snowfall totals across pheasant country increase, many hunters and conservationists find cause for concern regarding ring-necked pheasants’ ability to survive, and ask “Should we be feeding pheasants?”

Habitat is the Effective Long-Term Solution

The key to carrying pheasants through the winter is quality thermal habitat. While this may provide no consolation this winter, consider that resources spent on establishing high quality winter cover will yield far greater results and the best winter survival rates down the road. The lesson to be learned from a tough winter is the need to plant more high quality thermal cover this spring. Start your habitat planning now!

More than anything, feeding is reactionary to the winter, when the best thing we can do is be proactive about improving quality habitat. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned people who provide corn and other grains as food sources actually harm pheasants more than they help them.

Why NOT to Feed Pheasants

The biggest reason to shy away from feeding pheasants is that feeders attract predators and expose pheasants to death by predation. Feeders give predators a focus point similar to a bait pile. In fact, it is rare for a pheasant to starve, but death by freezing can be common. Poorly-placed feeders may draw the pheasants out and away from their protective winter cover and cause birds to congregate and expend energy competing for food. Instead of saving birds, this actually adds to freezing deaths.

Food and Cover Plots a Better Option

Rather than simply dumping out grain for pheasants, plan in advance of nasty winters with a food and cover plot(s). When designed and placed correctly, food and cover plots reduce bird mortality and help bring hens through the winter in peak condition for breeding – location is critical, as plots next to dense native grasses, in combination with trees and shrubs, are much better than those planted out in the open. See Pheasants Forever’s Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes for more information.