By Bob St.Pierre

Like most businesses, the morning conversations at Pheasants Forever revolve around the weekend’s hunting and fishing adventures with a side of weather talk.  My morning started off with a fascinating lesson on shelterbelts from Ron Leathers, Pheasants Forever’s Public Finance Director and a certified wildlife biologist.  Considering another winter storm has hit Pheasants Forever’s National Headquarters in Minnesota again, it seemed appropriate to post today about winter cover in spite of it being April on the calendar.

A shelterbelt’s effectiveness in creating winter cover for pheasants, as I learned during my conversation with Leathers, centers on proper design.


Because winter winds and snow blow from the north and west, shelterbelts should be constructed with the idea of blocking these winds from the areas you are most focused on “protecting” from the elements.

Shelterbelt cross section in color

Snow Catch

According to Leathers, snow will pile for up to 10 times the height of your first row of trees.  In other words, if your front row of trees are 10 feet high, then snow will pile up behind that row for 100 feet.  Consequently, it’s important to recognize the need to have considerably more than 100 feet behind that first row if you plan to provide any suitable amount of winter cover.


Lift Trees

The center of any shelterbelt should feature a section of the tallest trees in the planting.  These “tall lift trees” help to reduce wind speed and provide better protection for the core winter cover beyond the snow catch and lift trees.


Thermal Cover

The inner-most portion of a shelter belt should include four or more rows of thick thermal cover, like evergreens.  This thickest of covers provides ground level protection from wind and heavy snows during severe winter storms.


Added Benefits of Shelterbelts

A well-designed shelterbelt can effectively protect buildings and roadways from drifting snow and can cut winter heating bills by 30 percent.  Shelterbelts aid in livestock ranching by trimming feed costs by affording protection from chilling winds.  And a beautiful grove of trees can also increase a farmstead’s property value.

Shelterbelt Farm

You can learn more about shelter belts, winter cover and other important tips for creating habitat on your own property by purchasing Pheasants Forever’s Essential Habitat Guide for a mere $2.95.  It’s priced so affordably because we want it in the hands of anyone interested in creating habitat.

Farm Bill Biologists

Another source of expertise is Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists.  These professionals are specialized consultants in conservation programs and habitat planning. Not only can they help landowners design shelter belts and other specific habitat projects on your property, they are also experts in local, state and federal conservation programs that may provide cost-share opportunities.


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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