By Tom Carpenter, Editor - Pheasants Forever
No matter how you measure summer, it starts to wane somewhere, sometime, in July.
Maybe the weather doesn’t quite say autumn is on the way, but the upland hunter’s mind begins to turn just a bit toward autumn – getting the dog out more, shooting a few rounds, patching up those boots and brush pants, placing that ammo order … and dreaming about splendid roosters erupting into a blue autumn sky.
It’s never too early to dream. Or to start planning autumn’s excursions and adventures. That’s why I surveyed key wildlife managers in the ten of the top pheasant states to see what was going on with the birds right now. While the biologists are careful to hold predictions close to their vests until official roadside surveys and the like are in, it’s also far enough along to take an early look.
Read on. Dream on. Start getting ready. Here's an early look at Nebraska.
“The weather early on in the spring was ideal for promoting vegetation growth over much of the state, but there was a late April snowstorm that dumped large amounts of snow in western parts of the state,” reports Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Further, although moisture was plentiful early on, temperatures were cool. Indications are that this might have delayed the onset of the nesting season.”
“We also had a rather severe rain event during the nesting and early hatching season that might have impacted production,” adds Lusk, “but the timing and locality probably hit quail harder than pheasants.”
“Summer temperatures so far have been hot,” he says. “We seemed to go from abnormally cool to abnormally hot within the span of a few days. Whether it has been hot enough to affect chick survival is uncertain.”
“As indicated, early spring moisture was good over much of the state,” says Lusk. “However, as spring progressed, things started drying out in the southern portion of the state, which might have stunted growth. Since then, rain has lifted most of the state out of ‘Abnormally Dry’ drought conditions, and only the extreme southeastern corner of the state remains in that ‘Abnormally Dry’ drought condition.”
“Given that I haven’t had reports of concern from field staff about habitat conditions, I’d say habitat is looking good at this point,” says Lusk.
“On the public land side of things, we have the Early Successional Habitat program that seeks to reset early successional conditions beneficial to many upland game birds,” says Lusk. “On private land, we have farm bill biologists across the state helping landowners navigate the available federal and state conservation programs.”
“The Berggren Plan for Pheasants
identifies areas across the state where pheasant management efforts should be focused,” says Lusk, “and outlines targets for both public and private land management.
“Further, to increase the amount of land open to public hunting, we offer the Open Fields and Waters program to pay private landowners for hunting and fishing access where the best opportunities exist,” says Lusk.
Like any good biologist in the middle of the upland nesting season, Lusk is holding his cards tight for now, until he knows what’s really in them.
“I can’t venture a hunting prediction yet,” he says. “Early spring surveys were down compared to 2017, but that might have been due to the late onset of spring this year. I’m currently waiting on the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey cards so that I can begin entering the data and processing it. Then we’ll have a better picture of what the fall might look like.”