Drought impacted Nebraska pheasants, but not as hard as other places. It should be a fair to good season in Cornhusker Country.
By Marissa Jensen
The Cornhusker State is well known for its mixed bag opportunities and long seasons. If you’re thinking about traveling to Nebraska to chase longtails this fall and winter, we have the inside scoop for you.
Weather has and may continue to be a factor for upland hunters, and pheasant hunting opportunities may be more limited due to this. Notable declines were indicated in the Southwest and Panhandle regions of Nebraska, due to extreme drought last fall and the 2020-2021 winter season.
Fortunately, abundant precipitation during late spring brought much needed reprieve. Biologists from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever share that nesting conditions remained favorable across much of the state.
This year’s Rural Mail Carrier Survey (RMCS) conducted in July indicated a decline of 14 percent for the pheasant index statewide. However, don’t let this information discourage you. Staff at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission remind hunters that dry conditions frequently inhibit roadside observations. Readers can locate additional information on survey results and summaries online at: OutdoorNebraska.org/upland
Despite declines and challenges, hunters should focus their efforts on the Southwest and Panhandle regions of Nebraska, where pheasant populations should remain higher. Emergency haying and grazing through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was authorized throughout much of the state due to drought conditions and could impact land that is enrolled in Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters (OFW) walk-in access program.
The message? Scout out your spots, call ahead and get the scoop locally … or just be prepared for what you may or may not find for habitat on the landscape.
Hunters who are willing to put in the time and miles should still find success. As usual, scouting will help set hunters up for success. Nebraska’s Public Access Atlas and OnX Maps are scouting tools that every Nebraska hunter should have in their box. Additionally, each fall biologists enroll around 25,000 and more acres of tall wheat and milo stubble into the state’s OFW program. The Stubble Access Guide is available later in the fall, and is frequently updated online.
This region of the state remains the most touted, and for good reason. Upland hunters may find success in Chase, Hayes, Hitchcock and/or Perkins County. But if you’re looking to experience more of what the state has to offer, there are additional options.
Target Open Fields and Waters locations in Cheyenne, Deuel, Box Butte or Sheridan County. The panhandle could provide some of the best populations of pheasants this year.
Look to Open Fields and Waters again, focusing in on Antelope, Knox, Cedar, Dixon and Dakota counties.
If you’re a Nebraska native, or visiting someone in the city, you may be looking for areas nearby to hit the field. Hunters should focus on lands located in Clay, Fillmore, Webster and York County.
Whether you’re stopping on your way to another region, or central Nebraska is your go-to place to hunt, hunters can look toward Greeley, Howard or Sherman County for pheasants this season.
NEBRASKA PHEASANT HUNTING TIPS AND TRICKS
As mentioned above, put the work in ahead of time. Pre-season scouting will be especially important in counties where emergency haying and grazing were utilized.
Due to dry conditions, agricultural fields may be harvested earlier this year, even by the season’s opener. Early season hunting could provide good opportunities this year with pheasants looking for additional cover and food sources.
Work areas differently than other hunters. Make sure to walk the insides of cover, versus just the perimeter. Utilize the Stubble Access Guide and Public Access Atlas to identify areas that aren’t as commonly hunted.
With dry conditions, birds could be clustered near water sources. Water sources include free-standing options, such as ponds, wetlands, etc. However, birds will also look toward insects and more succulent broadleaf plants in drier conditions to provide ample hydration. Zero in on weed patches and other recently disturbed areas to try and find a hidden rooster.
Nebraska’s pheasant season runs from October 30 2021 to January 31 2022.