Posts Tagged ‘Pheasants’

Pheasants Forever Introduces Two New Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

 SignatureSeedGraphic

Food and cover plots fit into almost any wildlife habitat management plan and, let’s face it, they are also really fun to hunt. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have expanded the line of Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes to 15 options with the 2014 additions of Cane Madness and White Lightning.

“There is a strong relationship between the location of food, thermal cover and winter survival for upland birds – so food plots are a critical factor in effective wildlife management,” says Jim Wooley, Director of Field Operations for Quail Forever, “Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Signature Series Food and Cover Mixes target a host of upland wildlife and big game species, and work all over pheasant and quail country.”

cane_MadnessCane Madness - Cane Madness is a phenomenal mix of high-yielding tall cane sorghums. It creates an abundant food source and cover for birds while also providing “screen habitat” for deer. This blend of the heaviest-seeded forage sorghums is designed to provide what matters most for game birds – cover that stands up to winter, and abundant high energy food. This mix enhances the character of existing winter cover when planted next to it, improves survival rates, and insures peak breeding conditions for birds. It can also provide stand-alone winter habitat and food if established in very large plots. A 25 lb. bag of Cane Madness plants 4-5 acres that can be established with standard planters, grain drills or broadcast seeders. Plant each spring at 5-6 lbs/acre when soil temperatures warm to 60 degrees. Matures in 95-110 days.

white_LightningWhite Lightning - This is a prescription blend of white and cream-seeded sorghum proven to attract both deer and upland birds. Simply put, this special mixture of mild-flavored, light-seeded sorghums will provide great food and safe foraging for game birds, and keep local deer happy as well. Plant this mix next to your existing winter cover to enhance its character and to improve survival by minimizing bird movement. A 25 lb. bag of White Lightning plants 4-5 acres. Establish with standard planters, grain drills or broadcast seeders. Plant each spring at 5-6 lbs/acre when soil temperatures warm to 60 degrees. Matures in 95-110 days.?

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Minn.’s newly-Designed Pheasant Critical Habitat License Plate Now Available

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

PheasantPlate

Purchasers of Minnesota’s new pheasant critical habitat license plate will support grassland habitat land acquisitions.

Minnesota’s newest critical habitat license plate features a ring-necked pheasant in grassland and is now available for purchase. Revenue generated from the sales of the new pheasant plates will be used to conserve upland habitat in the state.

The DNR chose the pheasant image from a previous pheasant-stamp winner submitted by Minnesota artist Joe Hautman who said he is honored to have the plate feature his artwork. The plate was graphically designed by DNR artist Collin Grant. Minnesota motorists can purchase the new, autumn-colored plate at any licensed registrar or department of motor vehicle office. It’s not necessary to wait until tabs are expired on the vehicle to purchase new plates and the tabs for the vehicle will expire at the same time.

“We are giving motorists more ways to show their conservation colors and individual identity,” said Tom Landwehr, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner. The first pheasant plates at the Pheasants Forever national office were purchased on Friday, November 1 by Bob St.Pierre, Vice President of Marketing for Pheasants Forever.

Motorists who purchase a critical habitat plate make a minimum annual contribution of $30 to the Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) Program. Every dollar generated through the sale of the license plate is matched with private donations of cash or land. The plates have generated more than $25 million toward the purchase of 7,700 acres of critical habitat and have helped fund nongame research and surveys, habitat enhancement and educational programs. Plate revenue will be used, in part, to support pheasant and other grassland species through Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan habitat acquisition, a plan which Pheasants Forever helped develop.

More information about how Minnesota’s critical habitat license plate sales fund conservation efforts is available online.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Minnesota Unveils New Critical Habitat Pheasant License Plate

Monday, October 14th, 2013

PheasantPlate

Purchasers of Minnesota’s new pheasant critical habitat license plate will support grassland habitat land acquisitions.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr announced this evening that a new ring-necked pheasant critical habitat license plate will be available later this fall. The announcement was made during the banquet at the third annual Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener, hosted by the city of Madelia.

Landwehr thanked those who have already purchased loon, deer, showy lady slipper, chickadee or fishing license plates. He said he looks forward to seeing a fresh hatch of pheasant plates on the road as well.

“Motorists who have purchased habitat plates have helped wildlife in every corner of the state,” Landwehr said. “They have funded wildlife management area acquisitions, trout stream easements and helped support loons, eagles, rare plants and many other species. The new pheasant plate will help us preserve some of our rapidly disappearing grasslands – which are critical to the future of pheasants,” he said.

The new pheasant plate is an adaptation of the 2007 Minnesota pheasant stamp by renowned Minnesota artist Joe Hautman. Landwehr said license plate revenue will be used, in part, to support pheasant and other grassland species through Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan habitat acquisition, a plan which Pheasants Forever helped develop.

The printing of the new plates will begin this fall. The DNR will announce when they are available at local deputy registrar offices, online, and other vehicle license outlets. Limited numbers should be available in about a month. The critical habitat plate requires a contribution of at least $30 per year more than a standard plate. There is also a one-time fee of $10 the first year for plate transfer costs. Contributions go to the DNR and are matched equally with private donations of land or cash to buy and manage important natural habitats which are preserved as public lands and are open to compatible public use, like hunting, hiking and wildlife watching.

Critical habitat license plates can be purchased anytime or when renewing a car or truck license through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. More information can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/plates/index.html.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Early Risers Find the Birds

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

The author's German shorthaired pointers with a preseason, dewy morning prairie grouse find: "Izzy" pointing and "Trammell" honoring. Photo by Bob St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

The author’s German shorthaired pointers with a preseason, dewy morning covey find: “Izzy” pointing and “Trammell” honoring. Photo by Bob St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

If the world were split between early risers and night owls, I’d be in the group hooting at the moon.  However, mom once predicted my alarm clock settings would change about the same time I developed a taste for Brussels sprouts.  This spring, I planted 28 Brussels sprouts in my garden, taking up almost 50 percent of the available space.  Yeah, you guessed it; my alarm clock setting has been slowly dialing back as straggling gray whiskers show up in my beard.

The obvious benefit to my new embrace of sunrises is better bird hunting.  I know this is a strange revelation coming from a guy who frequently touts the “Golden Hour” as the best time of the day to pheasant hunt.  However let me offer two big reasons in support of my sunrise theory:

1)      Catch Roosters Leaving the Roost.  While states have opening starts to the hunting day as varied as one half hour before sunrise all the way till noon on opening weekend in South Dakota, seasoned hunters will tell you to be in the field as early as legal shooting time allows.  In states like North Dakota and Kansas, it’s legal to begin your day’s pheasant hunt a half hour before sunrise.  This caffeinated starting time allows the early rising hunter to catch birds still in grassy roosting areas before disappearing into the standing fields of corn, sunflowers, or other crops.  This advantage wanes as crops are harvested and the season marches toward winter, but the days get shorter too.

2)      Dewy Scenting Conditions.  Moist conditions hold scent much better than dry conditions.  Just ask a Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, or Nebraska hunter how tough it was to find birds last fall when they hadn’t received rain in months.  A big part of the equation is the dog’s ability to locate scent.  A dewy morning presents excellent conditions for your bird dog to tip the scales in your advantage.  As the dew evaporates, so does that birdy scent and your hopes of a daily bag limit.

So what do you think, do you prefer the first hour of the day to catch those early rising “alarm clock” roosters, or are you a fan of the last glimmer of the day’s “golden hour?”

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Minnesota Pheasants: Late Spring Increases Importance of Delayed Roadside Mowing

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

While the third week in June is typically the peak of the pheasant hatch, that may not be the case in Minnesota this year due to a cool, wet spring. As pheasant nesting has been impacted, the delayed mowing of roadsides will be even more important in this wacky weather year.

“The late spring will likely impact pheasant nesting in one of two ways,” said Nicole Davros, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources research scientist and pheasant specialist. “Some hens may have delayed nest initiation due to cooler temps and snow cover at the start of the nesting season. Other hens that did start nesting may have abandoned their first attempt due to the weather.”

This hen pheasant and nest were destroyed by early roadside mowing. Photo courtesy the Minnesota DNR

This hen pheasant and nest were destroyed by early roadside mowing. Photo courtesy the Minnesota DNR

Davros says this year there will probably be a lot of pheasants still nesting in July, noting it takes six weeks for a hen pheasant to lay eggs and have them hatch. Chicks need to be two to three weeks old to escape mowers or other farm equipment. By delaying roadside disturbances until August 1, most nests can hatch successfully.

If a nest succumbs to a mower before the eggs hatch, and provided the hen escapes, she will re-nest, doing so, in fact, until successfully hatching a clutch. If chicks perish in a ditch cutting, the hen will not re-nest, as pheasant hens will only hatch one brood per year.

Roadsides provide more than 500,000 acres of nesting area in the pheasant range of southern and western Minnesota.  In some areas, up to 40 percent of pheasants in the fall population can be produced in roadsides. Unfortunately, thousands of pheasant nests and nest sites are destroyed annually in Minnesota and nationwide because of ditch mowing, haying, spraying and ATV operation during late spring and summer. That’s why Pheasants Forever encourages delaying all these roadside disturbances all across pheasant country until after August 1.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Field Report: Did Late Winter Snows Hurt Minn., N.D. and S.D. Pheasants?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Photo courtesy of NRCS

Snow cover was common well into April in many parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota. Photo courtesy of NRCS

While the calendar turned over to spring in March, winter hung on much longer in the Upper Midwest, where parts of Minnesota reported the snowiest April on record, two feet of snow collected in Bismarck, North Dakota and South Dakota saw its share of April snowstorms.  Also an important factor is a late winter’s slowing down of “greening” nesting grasses to make the quality cover that is available attractive to hen pheasants.

Cold April temperatures can be deadly for pheasant nests already on the ground, but with the way winter lingered, it’s not likely many hens got to that point this month. “I haven’t noticed any pheasants starting to prepare nests yet,” said Troy Dale, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist in west-central Minnesota’s Lac qui Parle County, “With the late snow melt this year the hens are going to fall a little behind on nest preparation.”

Across the border in South Dakota, Matt Morlock, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist II from Volga, says the conditions did put some stress on pheasants, but he’s thankful it was just snow as opposed to ice. “Ice is the real killer on birds, so that was a huge break. The other helpful thing is that it hasn’t been overly cold with these systems, and the fields have maintained some open spots for scratching and feeding. We haven’t been seeing any die-offs or other signs of severe stress. I do think that we are going to see the hens in a little poorer condition this spring as opposed to previous nesting seasons which could have an impact on the number of eggs and chicks produced.”

To the north, moderate temperatures and little precipitation was the story of North Dakota’s winter for the first half. “Then various blizzards hit every region of North Dakota from January to April,” says Matt Olsen, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist from Forman in the southeast part of the state, “The most recent snowstorms in mid-April hit the south-central and far southeast corner the hardest.” Olsen expects there to be reduced nesting cover, a combination of the extended winter and carryover effects from the drought. “Last fall, nearly all Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in North Dakota were opened up for emergency haying and grazing. Consequently, this vegetation has not had the time to recover to be available for quality nesting habitat,” Olsen said, “And with the spring melt being this late, some areas that could have served as nesting habitat will be flooded and will not provide any nesting cover in the near future. “

While the weather hasn’t been ideal for pheasants, compounding the issue is continued upland habitat loss in these states. “North Dakota has also seen a reduction in the amount of land enrolled in CRP which will further reduce the amount of nesting cover on the landscape,” Olsen says.

Adds Morlock, “Drain tiling and grassland conversion will have a far bigger and more widespread impact on our pheasants than the snow ever could.”

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

The Importance of Prescribed Fire in Habitat Management

Friday, April 26th, 2013

This spring, Pheasants Forever and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources teamed up for a 150-acre prescribed burn on the Hull Wildlife Management Area in Mahaska County.

This spring, Pheasants Forever and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources teamed up for a 150-acre prescribed burn on the Hull Wildlife Management Area in Mahaska County.

It’s taken a long time this year, but winter’s icy stranglehold across the upper Midwest has finally begun to relent . . . we hope!  Meteorologists are forecasting a balmy April weekend ahead which should liquefy the last remaining piles of snow throughout most of the pheasant range.  Finally, we’re at spring’s doorstep, which means it’s a perfect time to start thinking about habitat management.

One of the most important tools for improving habitat is prescribed fire.  Controlled burning in early spring accomplishes three main objectives in habitat management.  First, burning limits the growth of woody vegetation helping maintain the prairie as a distinct ecosystem.  Second, the fire burns off the duff layer of built up plant matter that hasn’t fully decayed over the last few years.  Third, prescribed burning releases the nutrients bound in the plant litter stimulating vigorous new growth, which is more attractive nesting covers for ground nesting birds.

Burns can be very dangerous if not done properly.  Grasses produce extremely hot fires and can spread rapidly.  Pheasants Forever’s habitat specialists and chapter volunteer burn crews are trained in completing safe and effective prescribed burns in many of the pheasant range states.

Prescribed fire can be an especially important tool in the mid-contract management of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands, as well as on state and federally managed wildlife lands.

What’s the biggest limitation to utilizing prescribed fire as a habitat management tool?

The answer: the general public does not understand the value of prescribed fire to the prairie ecosystem.  Fire is widely viewed as bad.

Stop and think about it for a moment; what maintained prairies as unique ecosystems prior to urbanization?  The answer: Massive grass fires started by lightning.

A well-planned and safely executed prescribed burn is an incredibly successful way to manage habitat for pheasants and quail.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

To Feed or Not to Feed? Pheasants Forever Has Answers

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

RoosterBySign

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.

Habitat Reduces Risk of Pheasants Freezing to Death

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Protective shelterbelts help pheasants conserve 3 percent of their daily energy. PF File Photo

Protective shelterbelts help pheasants conserve daily energy, reducing their risk of freezing to death and ensuring they come through winter strong for breeding season. PF File Photo

The major cause of pheasant winter mortality is not starvation, it is freezing. The pheasant’s physiological processes can produce only so much heat, and as temperatures drop, more and more body heat is lost to the surrounding air. At some temperature, called the “lower critical temperature,” more heat is lost than can be produced, and the bird freezes.

Pheasants will spend their winter nights roosting in grass cover or wetlands. The dead grass of roosting cover makes a nice insulated bed which protects birds from the wind. While the temperature near their beds may be 0°F, the 20 mph wind three feet above their heads produces a -39°F wind chill. To survive the 0°F in the grass, the pheasants must use 22.42 kcal of energy each hour. Without the grass cover, the pheasant needs 28.01 kcal each hour to survive the -39°F wind chill – meaning inadequate cover causes them to burn 25 percent more per hour. It’s difficult enough trying to survive a 16-hour night, then having to expend 25 percent more energy to get through it.

The use of shelterbelts and woody draws as loafing cover provides even greater energy benefits than roosting cover. Not only does a well-designed tree belt negate the energy costs of wind chill, it produces a warmer temperature inside the belt than outside the belt. With the still air inside a belt and the solar collection ability of dark-colored conifers, the temperature within a belt can be 5°F warmer than the surrounding air. In such a belt, pheasants can survive with 3 percent less energy.

The Big Spur Blog is written by Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Wildlife Biologist for North Dakota. If you have a pheasant habitat or pheasant biology question for Jesse, email him at JBeckers@pheasantsforever.org.

Decorah, Iowa: Pheasant Hunting and Much More

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Winneshiek County PF chapter habitat chair Terry Haindfield with a hard-won rooster brought to bay by his Brittany, "Sage." Photo by Mark Herwig / Pheasants Forever

Winneshiek County PF chapter habitat chair Terry Haindfield with a hard-won rooster brought to bay by his Brittany, “Sage.” Photo by Mark Herwig / Pheasants Forever

This past December I visited the Winneshiek County Pheasants Forever chapter in northeast Iowa. We had a great pheasant hunt on public and private lands that the chapter has helped protect for the birds. We hunted one landowner/member’s land that included a bluff considered sacred by the Winnebago native tribe. In fact, he allows native leaders to visit the bluff to perform rituals. We scaled the bluff with two state natural resource officials and found it still covered on one side with native plants off all types – a cultural and wildlife gem, one the chapter is helping protect.

Before visiting the bluff, we hunted this land. My springer, “Hunter,” confirmed my belief in walking slow while pheasant hunting. Hunter isn’t pressured easily to go fast over cover, and again he proved this behavior sovereign. I had just walked, slowly, over some thick cover and, as I often do, noticed Hunter working the grass behind me rather intently. I slowed up, and sure enough, a rooster flushed not 10 feet behind me. I swung and dropped him with one shot. Go slow! Heck, I’ve shot a lot of roosters just when I stop to talk. It freaks them out if you’re close.

Good pheasant hunting is just the beginning of the great life style folks enjoy in this relatively unknown corner of the Hawkeye State.

Decorah, the chapter’s home city, is a bustling little town of over 8,000 with a vibrant downtown. My last night in town I shopped at the local food co-op and cooking store and found some great items. There was also a great holiday parade and a BBQ joint that had just opened a week before. The ribs, smoked onsite, were great.

And Decorah offers more than pheasant hunting. The chapter’s work, and that of many others, has also greatly improved the trout fishing in this area, which wasn’t glaciated like most the Midwest and still has hills, bubbling springs and cold, clear streams full of naturally reproducing trout. We went fly fishing with a local Trout Unlimited leader and caught browns, brook and rainbow trout, several of which I kept and grilled up fresh when I got home to Minnesota.

On your way in or out of Decorah, don’t miss the drive along the Mississippi River from the Minnesota border to Guttenberg. This drive should be on the bucket list of anybody who loves stunning natural beauty and wildlife … the river’s forests, wetlands and islands are loaded with incredible plant and animal diversity.

The last hunt on my stay in Decorah, Winneshiek County PF chapter habitat chair Terry Haindfield decided to go after a rooster that flushed when we pulled up to hunt an hour or so earlier. Hainfield disappeared over a hill in the direction of the rooster about a half mile away. Sure enough, in a few minutes I heard a single shot. As you can see, it was quite a bird!

If you want to read more about this fun hunt and the Winneshiek chapter’s efforts in this bejeweled corner of my birth state, Iowa, stay tuned to upcoming issues of Pheasants Forever Journal.

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at mherwig@pheasantsforever.org.