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muc33

Feeder time approaching!

32 posts in this topic

Well crew with the season end coming up very fast, it is time to start talking about assisting your property with feeder set ups. These can be very basic, or some have some up with very elaborate devices like auto feeders. So, lets share some ideas, some tips, and techniques that help keep our feathered friends going during a tough winter, can you believe winter only officially started on Sunday. YIKES!

I use a couple different types of feeders I have purchased over the years. Both are easy to make, but I have next to no building skills so I let others do the handy work and buy it from them for thier time and labor.

Chicken wire feeders with a weighted base for either shelled corn or cobbed corn. Works well as there are many openings and with cobbed corn gives the birds access even with snow drifts fill up the bottom.

Field tile with holes drilled out on a solid base. Works only with shelled corn and the corn drops out the holes drilled around the tile. This works great as it is good for sheltered areas where the feeder may get less wind blow and the corn is not exposed to the elements such as a freezing rain, where the chicken wire feeders get a shell of ice over the corn that sometimes stops their flow.

Mechanical feeders, these are often set on timers and are covered and filled at a high point and then "throws" corn around a fixed spot. Good but can be expensive and often attract deer as well, which can sometimes be a fight to see who gets the food first.

Key points I like to stress. Please take note of where you place your feeders. I have feeders placed in tall switch grass plots, I also have them placed close to low lying cover to prevent the chance for any hungry avian predator, nor any ground predators to have easy pickings on potential weather warn birds. (disclaimer) This is not by any means slamming avians! The point is to make sure the birds don't have to go out into the open without quickly being able to regain the shelter of dogwood, or cedars, or spruce, or willow cover.

The biggest thing I would like to stress is a fact that many people realte to "starving birds". We all see it during the winter, birds coming to the gravel roads in droves. This is not a key to the thought they are "starving", though it is a KEY factor. We all know they need food to survive, but often, we forget that to process that food, they must have grit! I always, even though a pain in the hind end, place a grit pile near my feeders. And in my Shell corn feeders I mix grit in with the shelled corn. This in my opinion is a VERY KEY factor. The more we can place the things they need near their shelter, the better it is for them! When you go to fill your feeders and grit, bring a couple simple tools with you. A rake, or 3 prong garden fork to loosen up frozen feed/and/or grit pile. This will provide your feathered friends a much easier time during what has started out as a snow filled and very cold winter!!!

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I am not a big fan of feeders (at least DNR sponsored feeders), but you are doing everything right:

1) private or club supported feeders. Let DNR spend money acquiring or maintaining habitat.

2) locate near cover to avoid too much exposure to avian predators and/or long trips in rough weather

3) grit and gravel. great idea.

4)I will add that if time, effort and money allow; better off with several smaller feeders in each area so birds are spread out across a wider area. Should help avoid disease and concentrating the predators.

I agree the birds are on the road mainly for grit. Plenty are hit by vehicles because they fly the "wrong way".

Good advise, good luck.

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The Iowa DNR does not recommend feeding pheasants except in extreme situations. I have personally only fed birds one winter, but if this one keeps up as it has started, I'll probably do some again. Only thing I would add to your list is this:

5) Once you begin feeding you cannot stop until fields have opened up for the spring.

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I started up my feeder a couple weeks ago, I like to get it going before the weather gets tough and while the birds are still moving around enough to find it. In the past I've used the corn cob wire feeders and the smaller mesh wire feeders with shelled corn but it seems like the deer clean them out in a couple of days so nowadays I use the spinning feeder mounted on a barrel. I have two from Cabelas and they work good. I set the timer to go off 4-5 times during the DAY, so I'm feeding the pheasants. Then I monitor it and if too much corn is laying there at 4PM then I shorten the run times. The deer will clean up the leftovers at night.

I locate them close to cover, maybe 25 feet from evergreens or willows, but not in heavy cover, I think that makes it too easy for a ground predator like a fox to hide out and nab a pheasant.

The grit sounds like good idea, keeps the birds off the road. Theres one dilbert around here that goes around throwing corn cobs right on the gravel road. I see it every year. I'm sure he sees pheasants on the road, tosses a cob out the window and drives on, thinking hes helping the pheasants when in reality hes luring them to the road so they can get whacked by a car. And of course most people don't slow down when they see pheasants along side the road, "It's just a pheasant".

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A feeder that we developed several years back and is easy to make, and a great project with the kids, is the "Garbage Can Feeder".

Get the big metal cans (you can use the plastic ones but they deteriorate in the sun after a year or two). Cut four two inch holes in the bottom for the gravity feed.

Location is critical...you can actually increase mortality if you put them in predator ambush areas as mentioned above, thus doing more harm than good. I also recommend not putting feeders out if you only have marginal cover on your property. You may feel compelled to put the feeder on your property, but if a neighbor has better cover...ask to put the feeders there. There is nothing worse than pulling birds away from great cover to marginal cover just because there is food at the marginal cover.

Put down one or two pallets on the ground in the location where you will put the feeder. Then put down a piece of carpet or something to keep the feed from pouring out in the pallets. Pallets are to get some elevation out of snow build up. Then put the feeder on top of the carpet and fill the feeder.

Corn is cheaper but it is also lower in protein and digestability (that is why farmers grind corn before they feed it to cattle). It is much better to mix corn with millets, Milo and sunflower as these cereal grains have higher protein contents and are also more digestable. Bring a piece of wire along to wire down the lid...it will blow away if not secured!

Drive in 4 T-posts around the perimeter of the feeder approximately 3 to 5 feet out from the feeder. Then wrap approximately 25 ft. of 6x6 inch woven wire (concrete re-enforcement wire at Menards) around the T-Posts. This will keep deer out as they will eat everything if you keep the feeder open. Using a wire snips, snipe two wires out of the squares, one high and one low, and bend around the T-post to secure the wire to the T-posts. Also fold two wire ends in at the end to secure the circle and to also allow easy access for future filling of the feeder.

One feeder will feed approximately 15 birds for 3 months if set up like this. Put two feeders on the one location and it will feed up to 30 birds.

I disagree with spreading feeders out...unless you have multiple locations with excellent cover. If you just have one location with excellent cover, then just put feeders in that area. There is safety in numbers...more eyes keeping a look out, etc. Ever try sneaking up on a huge flock of geese or a herd of deer? Not very easy compared to sneaking up on just a few.

Here is a link to what your T-post/wire set up would look like and what the food blend would look like...

[Note from admin: Please read forum policy before posting again. Thank you.]

I strongly recommend feeders. As mentioned above, it is not that the birds are starving to death, it is the increased mortality from exposure to predators and weather as they search farther and farther out for food. DNR studies have shown that mortality increases exponentially as the birds get farther from secure winter cover. I have about 10 feeders on each of my properties along with the food plots. The feeders help keep the birds close to the winter cover and reduce exposure. I like to say that "it is good not to see pheasants in the winter"...as that means they are tucked away nicely in their winter cover rather than along roads and out in the middle of field stubble.

We also have a saying..."Dead hens don't lay eggs". If you don't get that hen through the winter, all of that conservation cover will mean nothing in the spring for nesting and brooding since the hen didn't make it.

I also recommend putting out enough feeders to take care of the birds you have and then some...rather than putting out one feeder and trying to get back to fill it over and over again. Like the comment above, "once you start feeding, don't stop"...my recommendation is to put out enough feeders so there is no issue about getting back to fill the feeder. It is very labor intensive hauling 50 lb. bags in to fill feeders and we all get busy doing other things...like watching the Vikes in the super bowl (when pigs fly). Just put out enough feeders and be done with it.

Fish On!

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I ain't talking half dozen birds per feeder. Where I grew up feeders would pull 20 - 50 birds and often 100 birds or more.

If you are covering more than 200 acres - you should have more than one feeder and preferrably on opposite sides of the cover.

Have also seen an owl take one bird a day or two from a flock of 12 and by the end of the month all were gone. I suspect (really hoped) several moved on to another place.

Remember baiting works for man (flocks of 100s of mallards lose all control), it works for predators (wing and 4-foot) too.

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Landdr, sounds like you have a system that works!!! I may have to try one setup like that by a cattail slough that holds birds but where I don't have access for a food plot.

I've thought about fencing out the deer but then I think they need to be fed too. With my timed feeders I just try to limit the amount of corn spread out in the daytime.

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Have also seen an owl take one bird a day or two from a flock of 12 and by the end of the month all were gone. I suspect (really hoped) several moved on to another place.

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Avian predators kill more ruffed grouse that four legged mammals. It is a significant contribution to grouse mortality, but not usually a significant impact on over all population.

Avian predators (owls and hawks) kill their share of pheasants with success higher in the winter. I suspect the impact on the overall population is relatively small, but localized can be huge.

Pheasants living in good winter habitat and near adequate food sources are not very vulnerable. Pheasants living in a thin tree belt full of snow are very vulnerable to attack even at night (owls).

I look at it similar to a pack of wolves. They kill and consume deer at a regular pace. Overall impact on northern MN deer heard is small, BUT if the pack's main territory is centered where you hunt deer - the impact on you may be huge. The deer are either dead, much more wary, or have moved to another location to avoid constant threats from the pack.

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Ohio report on grouse:

Recent Ohio studies have found the annual

survival rate of adult males was 45 – 50 percent;

survival of females and juveniles was somewhat

lower and ranged from 15 – 35 percent. Most

mortality was attributed to avian predators

such as Cooper’s hawks, great-horned and

barred owls, and mammalian predators such

as raccoons, foxes, and mink. Hunting had little

impact on grouse populations.

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Lets not let the avian thing cloud this topic crew. If you want to start a new topic specifically about avain's we can do so, lets just keep this on the feeder subject. And yes, I realize this is a side topic related to the feeders, but I think you know where this could lead and it has nothing to do with feeders. Thanks crew!

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Got the best feeder we could've asked for...a day of melting which opened up fields in key areas next to cover. Friday was a bird saver in this area to be sure.

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Looked out on New Year's morning and saw 11 pheasants under my feeder - 10 hens and a rooster. Nice to see it getting used, now that they've found it I just have to keep it filled! Went out hunting later that day and stayed away from the adjacent cattail slough, didn't want to scatter them out and I've had a good season, now its time for pheasant watching.

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landscaper, I use the Cabelas spinning feeder that you mount on the bottom of a barrel or bucket, I have two of them and they work good, easy to use, easy to program, reliable. They run off the big 6 volt batterys, I bought the rechargable ones, with an extra battery, then I replace it when I go check it. I program them to go off four times during the day - 8 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM, 4 PM so I'm feeding the pheasants during the daytime rather than so many deer at night.

I tried different types of wire feeders for cob and shelled corn but unless you have a fence around them the deer empty them out in a hurry. Not that I mind feeding and seeing a few deer but it just got out of hand, you couldn't keep corn in them without a fence around it. The deer still come in and clean it up but with these Cabelas feeders you can also set the runtime so if I notice too much corn on the ground at sunset I'll cut back on the runtimes.

Mine is mounted on a 40 gallon plastic barrel, it takes 3 fifty pound bags of shelled corn to fill it, right now I'm on my second filling. I actually mounted the barrel on a 6 foot high four legged platform, its sturdy enough to where the wind won't blow it over and I can climb up and fill it. I tried the rope and pulley attached to the bucket feeder but that was too awkward plus it didn't have enough capacity, if your feeder was set wrong it would empty out in two days.

I like the in the air timed feeders, don't hesitate to try one, go out to the Cableas HSOforum and do a search on 'game feeders'. The ones I bought were only $35, but they also have some with ready made tripods. Good luck!

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Counted 14 pheasants under the feeder Sat morning. smile Deer are wising up though, they are staying later in the morning to eat the corn that comes out early on, I had two small does still eating at 9 AM. But the pheasants were there too. Nice to watch them pecking away, filling up, and heading into the bruch, rather than having them exposed out in an open field. Once they find the feeder its just a matter of keeping it filled.

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The pheasants by my feeder have so far survived the cold, saw 10 on Sunday morning, along with a late feeding doe and fawn, then saw 8 pheasants back at the feeder when I was having lunch. They don't stay long, 5-10 minutes, pecking away, and then they're back to the evergreen cover. I have it set up so I can watch them thru my spotting scope. Last time I filled it, I gave them a treat, I spread some grit around and mixed some in the corn also.

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I was visiting the HSOforum for PF and their headline article by Anthony Hauck, PF's Public Relations Specialist, was an interesting read. Here are a couple quotes from the article related to winter feeding.

Quote:
"Our first thought may be, 'those pheasants are going to starve if I don't feed them,'" said Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever Regional Wildlife Biologist in North Dakota, a state hit particularly hard this winter, "But is this the limiting factor when it comes to pheasants surviving harsh winter conditions? The answer is no. It all comes down to habitat, namely good winter cover. A pheasant that starves to death is rare, and most will die of exposure or predators long before starvation.

Winter Feeding: Pouring corn and grain on the ground during winter will attract pheasants, but it will also attract a wide range of other wildlife, including predators. If you are determined to feed pheasants, it is important to understand that it will likely congregate birds and will attract predators and draw wildlife a great distance away from winter habitat, killing more birds than starvation.

Bob

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This is the same line the Iowa DNR uses when asked about pheasant feeding. There was a group of us that did it a few years back during an exceptionally tough winter, but not since based on this advice.

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I don't necessarily think the DNR is suggesting that feeding should never be done. I do think that there are too many of us that think we'er doing the species and ultimately ourselves a benefit by placing feed in piles for them.

I think what they are trying to get across is that it would be far better to broadcast the feed so the animals aren't encouraged to congregate in tight little smorgasbords for predators and disease propagation. It would serve both, the species and us the hunters, much more.

I'll never forget the time I thought I would do the cottontails in our woodlot a favor by placing alfalfa pellets in a chicken feeder for them. It didn't take long before I noticed a couple hawks take up residence in the nearby trees and rather than helping the bunnies survive the winter, I actually provided a much higher benefit to the hawks.

I especially love it when I see piles of corn out on top of a hill that is acres away from any protective cover. Feed them if it thrills you, but to get the best bang for your buck, do it under protective cover.

Bob

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I was visiting the HSOforum for PF and their headline article by Anthony Hauck, PF's Public Relations Specialist, was an interesting read. Here are a couple quotes from the article related to winter feeding.

Quote:
"Our first thought may be, 'those pheasants are going to starve if I don't feed them,'" said Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever Regional Wildlife Biologist in North Dakota, a state hit particularly hard this winter, "But is this the limiting factor when it comes to pheasants surviving harsh winter conditions? The answer is no. It all comes down to habitat, namely good winter cover. A pheasant that starves to death is rare, and most will die of exposure or predators long before starvation.

Winter Feeding: Pouring corn and grain on the ground during winter will attract pheasants, but it will also attract a wide range of other wildlife, including predators. If you are determined to feed pheasants, it is important to understand that it will likely congregate birds and will attract predators and draw wildlife a great distance away from winter habitat, killing more birds than starvation.

Bob

Yeah those 12-14 pheasants that I see every Sat and Sun morning filling up with corn at my feeder in 10 minutes and then running back into the evergreens would be a LOT better off if they were out in the open scrounging around for food all day long.

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Imagine how much better off they'd be if they didn't have to gather around your feeder but instead were able to pick up what they needed while spread out under the cover of a patch of cattails.

Like I said, feed 'em if you must but consider the advantage of doing it with their safety in mind.

Bob

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I think if you look back to the original posts here on this subject, I did and know others did as well, mention the fact of doing this near cover for protection from both ground and avian predators. This is all discretionary. Slapping a feeder in the middle of a bare field, is not the focus here.

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