To Feed or Not to Feed? Pheasants Forever Has Answers
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.
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 atJBeckers@pheasantsforever.org.
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