Hunters take to the field for opener of pheasant, quail season
Upland hunters were greeted by mild weather for Nebraska’s Oct. 31-Nov. 1 pheasant and quail season opener.
Many hunters reported seeing relatively good numbers of pheasants but noted the dry conditions posed challenges. High temperatures were in the 60s Saturday and 50s Sunday. Although parts of Nebraska received snow last week, conditions remain very dry across much of the state. This coupled with high winds on Saturday likely contributed to poor scenting conditions reported by many hunters over the weekend.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff contacted 1,250 upland bird hunters while making bag checks during the weekend. Those hunters harvested 601 pheasants, 121 quail, and 21 prairie grouse. Hunter success for pheasants averaged 0.48 birds per hunter, compared to 0.56 birds per hunter in 2019.
Staff talked with an additional 909 hunters at the 19 pheasant release sites across the state. They bagged 390 pheasants, of which 82 percent were pen-raised.
Regionally, hunter success for pheasants was highest in the Northeast and Southwest regions, which both averaged more than 0.5 birds per hunter. Most hunters were seen on publicly accessible lands such as wildlife management areas (WMA), waterfowl production areas (WPA), and private lands enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters (OFW) Program.
Good numbers of quail were reported in portions of southeastern and south-central Nebraska, but relatively few hunters targeted bobwhites.
The following is a report of hunting activity by Commission District:
Southwest – Hunter activity was relatively high on public lands. OFW sites in Hayes, Perkins, Chase, Red Willow and Hitchcock counties continue to be popular among pheasant hunters, but success was highly variable among parties. Hunter use also was high on some of WPAs in the western Rainwater Basin, but reports indicate harvest was below average. Hunters reported seeing good numbers of quail throughout many counties in south-central Nebraska. According to field reports, crop harvest was 75-95 percent complete.
Southeast – Similar to past years, hunting pressure was high on most pheasant release sites. Hunter use also was relatively high on public lands in the eastern Rainwater Basin. Hunters reported seeing relatively good numbers of pheasants, with some groups averaging 0.5 birds per hunter. Hunting activity elsewhere was relatively low, and the few hunters observed on private lands were having moderate success. Good numbers of quail were reported in a number of southeastern counties, but few hunters were targeting them. Soybean harvest was nearly complete and corn was more than 85 percent harvested.
Northeast – Most hunters were observed using public lands throughout the district, including OFW sites and WMAs. The majority of hunters reported seeing relatively good numbers of birds where CRP was abundant. Some of the better reports came from OFW sites in Cedar, Dixon, Knox and Dakota counties, where hunters had fair to good success. Hunting activity and success was relatively lower elsewhere in the district. Crop harvest was 75-95 percent complete in eastern portions of the district but further behind to the west.
Northwest – Compared to 2019, hunters had relatively lower success on opening weekend but the dry, dusty conditions were less than ideal. Many hunters reported seeing good numbers of pheasants and grouse, with some of the better reports coming from counties in the southern Panhandle. Due to dry conditions, birds were reportedly very flighty and tough to get within gun range. Very few hunters were encountered on private land throughout the district, and overall hunter activity was considerably low on Sunday. Crop harvest was 70-85 percent complete.
Plenty of upland opportunities remain, and hunters can find trip planners, tips for success and buy permits at OutdoorNebraska.org. Pheasant, quail and prairie grouse seasons continue through Jan. 31.