The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is hoping landowners will take a look at a new program to create habitat for pheasants. DNR wildlife biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, says it’s part of the Conservation Reserve Program and 50,000 acres are available in Iowa.
He says they weren’t able to get people signed up until the new Farm Bill was approved. “We’re hoping with the new Farm Bill being done here, hopefully in the next couple of months we’ll actually be able to market this and get a few landowners interested in putting some good pheasant habitat on the ground,” Bogenschutz says.
The program called “Iowa Pheasant Recovery SAFE,” requires you to plant habitat, nesting and feeding areas together for the pheasants. “Basically it’s kind of the bedroom, kitchen room, living room all right there in one spot for the birds,” Bogenschutz explains. He says having all the areas together makes it easier on the pheasants to nest and get food and grow their population.
Bogenschutz says the program would work best on ground that isn’t that productive. “Corn prices are tumbling, you know there’s already predictions that corn could be under four dollars by this fall. So, especially on some of the less productive land, CRP rental rates are paying upwards of 300 dollars plus on some soils in Iowa,” Bogenschutz says. “So for those that are interested in helping pheasants, I think it’s probably worth looking at.”
Bogenschutz says the most recent winter storm that saw a mix of rain, sleet, hail and snow is a key example of the need for diverse habitat for pheasants. “I thought maybe this storm wasn’t going to be a big deal, but the way it came in — being warmer yet it still fell as snow — really stuck to vegetation. And it was very wet and really collapsed all the grasses under the weight of that wet, heavy snow,” Bogenschutz says. He says that left pheasants with fewer places to hide and their food sources covered.
“A lot of our grass habitats got eliminated. A lot of the fields are now locked in a sheet of ice,” according the Bogenschutz. He says that will make it hard for birds to scratch through the snow and ice to get to food. And he says they may have to move greater distances to find food, which leaves them open to predators. Weather has taken its toll on the state pheasant population in recent years. Bogenschutz says adding these CRP acres tailored to the birds could help turn that around.