Bird Dog & Retriever News

June / July 2003 issue Page 43

 pair of pheasant-friendly USDA programs; the continuous buffer strip and the farmable wetlands programs. The buffer signup leaves strips of grassy cover along field waterways and streams. The wetlands exemption allows farm owners to enroll a small low spot, up to five acres, prone to periodic flooding, while cultivating the rest of a field. Either practice provides year-round cover for pheasants and other upland species.
Iowa's barometer comes in August, as 210 early morning surveys are conducted. Two years ago, they plummeted to about 15 birds per 30-mile route. Last year, the bounce back was to 32 birds. "Actually, last year, we were almost back to the numbers we had before that bad winter, " admits Bogenschutz. "If the spring cooperates again this year, we could be up around 40, 50 birds a route again; well above levels of the last few years."
Lots of 'ifs', 'buts' and crossed fingersbut 2003's pheasant forecast is off to a tentative head start.
Snow Goose Migration Underway
Midweek rain and cold winds have slowed the snow goose migration. However, the flood of snows heading north has begun. "We had thousands and thousands of them flying over this past weekend with that warm weather, " relates DNR wildlife technician Dennis Proctor.
Proctor lives on the Hawkeye Wildlife Area, in northwest Johnson County. On Monday, 50, 000 were reported at Riverton Marsh in southwest Iowa.
Again this year, a spring season is in place through April 15, to encourage heavier hunting pressure on Mid-Continent snow geese.
Overpopulations of them are destroying their Hudson Bay nesting grounds. The Iowa DNR updates snow goose information at 712-387-2032.
PLAN NOW FOR 2004 PHEASANT FOOD PLOTS
Now is the time to begin planning food plots for next winter. Each winter food plots of corn, sorghum, or other grains are used by all kinds of wildlife for winter survival. According to Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife research biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, food shortages were not a problem during the past winter for most of Iowa's wildlife, including pheasants. The winter of 2002-03 was dry and mild; so most of Iowa's upland wildlife should be in very good condition this spring, he said. However, next winter could be like the severe winter of 2000-01 when food plots played a very important role for upland wildlife. The time to plan for next winter is now.
"There have been few documented cases of pheasants actually starving to death in Iowa, " Bogenschutz said. "Virtually all of Iowa's winter mortality is attributed to severe winter storms with the birds freezing to death."
So why plant food plots for pheasants if they seldom starve in winter? Well, a couple of reasons. 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 can be more beneficial to wildlife than the food itself. Second, food plots allow pheasants to obtain a quick meal 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 food plots for pheasants:
1. Corn and sorghum grains provide the most reliable food source throughout the winter as they resist lodging in heavy snows. Pheasants prefer corn to sorghum, although sorghum provides better winter habitat. Sorghum is also less attractive to deer, if deer are a problem.
2. Place food plots away from tall deciduous trees (that provide raptors with a place sit and watch food plots) and next to wetlands, CRP fields, and multi-row shrub-conifer shelterbelts that provide good winter habitat.
3. Size of food plots depends upon where they are placed. If the plot is next to good winter cover the smaller (2 acres

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Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News May 2003
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