Food Plots for Pheasants and Quail Provide Needed Shelter

pheasantBoone, Iowa – 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 wet heavy snows that often flatten grass habitats, like the March 23 storm that blew across north Iowa.

“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:

  • Corn provides the most reliable food source throughout the winter as it resists lodging in heavy snows. Sorghum or milo provides better winter habitat.  Pheasants prefer corn to sorghum as a food source.  Half corn and half sorghum plots make the best of both worlds – cover and food – for pheasant and quail.
  • Place food plots next to wetlands, CRP fields, and multi-row shrub-conifer shelterbelts that provide good winter habitat and away from tall deciduous trees that provide raptors with a place sit and watch food plots.
  • Size of food plots depends upon where they are placed.  If the plot is next to good winter cover the plot can be smaller but at least two acres minimum.  If winter cover is marginal, like a ditch, then plots must be larger – 5 to 10 acres – to provide cover as well as food.
  • Depending on the amount of use some food plots can be left for two years.  The weedy growth that follows in the second year provides excellent nesting, brood rearing, and winter habitat for pheasants and other upland wildlife.  Food plots that have heavy deer use generally need to be replanted every year.


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

Don’t Wait for Memorial Day Weekend

Iowa DNRDon’t wait until the first big holiday of the season to get out and enjoy an Iowa State Park. There are some really cool things to see and do happening right now, before the end of April! Here are five to inspire a trip outdoors, sooner rather than later.

The redbuds are on their way to a peak show at Red Haw State Park. Park manager Mike Schrader is predicting prime viewing in about a week to 10 days, around April 23-24.

“This is really a sight to behold,” says Schrader. Before the leaves open on this small native tree, purple-pinkish blooms cover the charcoal-colored branches. Redbuds can be found throughout much of southern Iowa, but this small state park, just outside of Chariton, has a concentration worth seeing. The trees encircle the park’s lake creating a stunning photo op.

Breakfast with the Birds series begins April 20, 7:30 a.m. at Prairie Rose State Park. This is the first of a six-week series which will conclude on May 25. A light breakfast will be served, followed by a short guided hike to do some birding. “We hope to see some of our resident birds along with some migrants this time of year,” says naturalist Christina Roeloffs. “And, of course, we will learn about different bird habitats and nesting habits.”

The event will begin at the park office. For more information call 712-773-2701.

Celebrate Earth Day, or rather Earth Evening by paddling under the light of a full moon. Both Prairie Rose State Park and Brushy Creek State Recreation Area are holding events April 22. Canoes with lights will be provided on a first come, first serve basis, and lights will be required on any vessels brought to the event. Prairie Rose participants should plan to meet at 8:30 p.m. on the east side of the lake off M47 and Brushy Creek participants will meet at 8 p.m. at the south boat ramp. For more information on the Prairie Rose event call the number above; for the Brushy Creek event call 515-543-8298.

Get a taste of spring at the Fifth Annual Pancakes in the Park, April 23 at Maquoketa Caves State Park. Did you know it takes 40 gallons of sap to cook down to one gallon of syrup? Park ranger Scott Dykstra knows. He and the park’s friends group gear up for this event in mid-February when they begin tapping the maple trees. Enjoy pancakes and real maple syrup as well as a variety of programs and activities from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the main shelter house. All proceeds from the breakfast go to Friends of Maquoketa Caves. For more information call 563-652-5833.

Stay in the comfort of one of the many Iowa state park cabins while you explore spring wildflowers, hunt for morel mushrooms, take in the bird migrations or wet that line on a nearby lake or stream. Currently 12 state parks have cabins available to rent for two-night minimums. Between April 15 and May 1, seven more parks will open their cabins for the season, creating plenty of overnight opportunities during one of the best times to visit Iowa parks. For more information on cabin availability and rates visit

And some outdoor-related programming worth checking out on Iowa Public Television this month:

Darling is Back! The Restoration of Lake Darling

This documentary tells the story of the lake’s restoration and the dedicated group of people who came together to preserve this state park named for the famed cartoonist and conservationist, Jay N. “Ding” Darling. April 17, 1:30 p.m. on IPTV.1 (Rebroadcasting April 25, 10 p.m. and April 28, 6:30 p.m.)

Iowa Outdoors

Enjoy springtime wildflowers through the lens of Tom Rosburg, travel alongside an elite team of storm chasers and spend the night outdoors for a military-style workout regimen. April 17, 2016, 1 p.m. on IPTV.1 (Rebroadcasting May 1, 12:30 a.m. on IPTV.1)

Fish Hatcheries Busy Netting Walleye

fishing 2Spirit Lake – The late night, week-long annual walleye collection is underway at Rathbun Lake, Storm Lake, Clear Lake and the Iowa Great Lakes. Crews with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Bureau have been setting gillnets at night looking for walleyes ready to spawn.

The goal is to collect enough fish to hatch 150 million walleye fry that will supply Iowa lakes and fish hatcheries.

Hatcheries will operate around the clock as workers bring in the nightly haul well past midnight. In the morning, those fish will have their eggs removed, then will be returned to the lake where they were caught to make room for the next night’s catch.

At Spirit Lake, crews have already collected and spawned enough northern pike adults to produce 900,000 fry. During walleye collection, Spirit Lake crews will also be collecting muskies to hatch 500,000 muskie fry.

Northwest Iowa Special Olympic Spring Games set for Saturday April 16th

Iowa Special Olympics Logo 2014Sioux Center Iowa — The Special Olympics Northwest Iowa Track and Field Spring Games will be held Saturday April 16th at the Sioux Center Athletic Field. In the case of inclement weather the event will move indoors to the Dordt College Gym and Rec Center.

Opening ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 9:30 am. The track and field events begin at 9:45 and the last relay is scheduled for 1:15 pm. There are over 450 athletes registered to participate from the ages of 8 to 80. Participating athletes will represent Lyon, Osceola, Sioux, O’Brien, Plymouth, Cherokee, Woodbury, Ida, Monona and Crawford counties as the Special Olympic Northwest District area.

Athletes may participate in two events and run with a relay team. There are over 200 volunteers who help to make the day a great success. First place winners will go on to compete in Ames on May 19th through the 21st at the Special Olympics Summer Games.

VNU Run Walk and Roll Date set

VNU walk roll 2016Sheldon, Iowa – Registration is now available for Village Northwest Unlimited’s 11th Annual Benefit Run, Walk and Roll to be held on Saturday June 4th.

You can enter the 5K, 10K, or 1 mile walk/roll. People of all ages and abilities are encouraged to join in the fun while supporting individuals with disabilities.

Register online at or contact Samantha Waterstone at Village Northwest Unlimited by calling 712-324-5416 or emailing for a registration form. Entry fees are $25.00 if postmarked by May 13th, $30 between May 14th and 27th or $35.00 after May 27th.

The 5K and 10K will utilize All Sport Central’s chip timing services which provide fast and accurate finish results. Medals will be awarded to the top 3 finishers in each age group ranging from ages 13 and under to 80 and over for the 5K and 10K. Overall male and female winners in the 5K and 10K run will also receive a trophy. All registered participants will receive an event t-shirt made from moisture management fabric.

If attending the event does not work for you, you may still support the Run, Walk and Roll with a donation. Online donations can be made at or you can mail donations to Samantha Waterstone at 330 Village Circle, Sheldon, IA 51201.

Iowa Boat Registrations Due April 30

Boat2016 is a boat registration year and Iowans will be registering about 235,000 boats before April 30.

Boat registrations are handled by Iowa’s county recorders. Boat owners should bring their current registration to recorder’s office in the county where the individual resides when they renew.

Nonresidents who register their boat in Iowa will go to the county where the boat is primarily used.

Owners who purchased a boat from a private seller and is registering it in their name should bring the signed registration and to make sure the title is signed over to them, if applicable.

Boat registrations are good for three years. The fees go to support water trails, navigation enforcement, aquatic invasive species, boater education and safety, and the registration system.