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BOONE – Each winter, food plots of corn, sorghum, or other grains are used by all kinds of wildlife for survival.
A well designed food plot can provide additional shelter for pheasants, quail and other wildlife, and withstand heavy snow storms that often flatten grass habitats, like the late February blizzard that left eight foot snow drifts across portions of north Iowa closing Interstate 35 for more than 24 hours.
“There have been few documented cases of pheasants actually starving to death in Iowa,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Virtually all of Iowa’s winter mortality is attributed to persistent snows or blizzards with the birds dying of exposure to predators or the weather.” With next winter in mind, now is the time to begin planning food plots.
So why plant food plots for pheasants if they seldom starve in winter?
First, food plots provide winter habitat as well as food. In fact, if properly designed and large enough, the habitat created by a food plot is much more beneficial to wildlife than the food itself. Second, food plots allow pheasants to obtain a meal quickly thereby limiting their exposure to predators and maximizing their energy reserves.
“If hens have good fat supplies coming out of the winter, they are more likely to nest successfully,” said Bogenschutz. Food plots also provide habitat and food for many other species like deer, turkey, partridge, squirrels, and songbirds.
Bogenschutz offers the following suggestions for planning shelterbelts and food plots for pheasants and quail:
Cost-share assistance or seed for food plot establishment is available from most county Pheasants Forever chapters or local co-ops. People can also contact their local wildlife biologist for information on how to establish and design shelterbelts or food plots that benefit wildlife. More information is available at http://www.iowadnr.gov/privatelands