Their advice is: Habitat is the Effective Long-Term Solution.
For pheasants to survive the winter, they need winter cover that will protect them from the cold, what PF calls "quality thermal habitat." Although birds that don't have adequate cover available this winter may die, offering them food doesn't help "More than anything, feeding is reactionary to the winter, when the best thing we can do is be proactive about improving quality habitat," said Rick Young, Pheasants Forever's Vice President of Field Operations, in a press release. "Unfortunately, many well-intentioned people who provide corn and other grains as food sources actually harm pheasants more than they help them."
Feeders attract predators, making the birds easy prey for foxes, hawks and owls, that are also struggling.
While this may be no consolation this winter, consider that resources spent on establishing high quality winter cover will yield far greater results and the best winter survival rates down the road. The lesson to be learned from a tough winter is the need to plant more high quality thermal cover this spring.
PF says it's more likely that a pheasant will freeze to death than starve. Feeders may draw the pheasants out of their protective winter cover and compete for food. The exertion and exposure puts them at greater risk of freezing.
If you are worried about pheasants in your area, contact Pheasants Forever Field Staff through the website, http://pheasantsforever.org/page/1/fieldstaff.jsp. They can also answer questions about habitat and help you plan to improve habitat when the weather warms up.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. "The Habitat Organization" has over 125,000 members in 750 local chapters across the continent.