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Pheasant Hunting Opening Weekend Report: Southwest Nebraska

Drought has been the name of the weather game for most of pheasant country this year, and Nebraska is no different. The state’s summer upland surveys indicated a pheasant population decrease of 15 percent, but noted the decrease, due to dry survey conditions, may not necessarily have been that steep. Read Pheasants Forever’s Nebraska Pheasant Hunting Forecast.

Pheasants Forever has a deep network of biologists in Nebraska stemming from strong partnerships with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. A pair of biologists share on-the-ground reports from what’s typically the top pheasant producing region in Cornhusker Country:

Nebraska pheasant hunters Randy Tullis and Austin Horn get ready to hunt during Nebraska’s 2012 pheasant opening weekend. Photo by Andy Houser / Pheasants Forever

I hunted southwest Nebraska opening weekend. The area has been in stage-four drought since July. There is no doubt the lack of insects, heat and CRP haying operations have taken a toll on pheasant numbers. It seems the average bird-per-hunter was near 1.5 late in the day on Saturday. For local farmers, the fall pheasant population analysis is the number of pheasants flushed per 1/4 section irrigation pivot of corn during harvest. In past years, this number has been in/near the hundred(s). This year? A half dozen.

There is still a considerable amount of corn in the fields in some parts of the region. Many CRP fields have been hayed and/or grazed. Cover is generally shorter and thinner than previous years. However, where high quality habitat is found, there are plenty of birds, including a high proportion of hatch-year birds. Bonus bobwhite quail and prairie chickens are possible for pheasant hunters. Hunters should look for patchy native grass interspersed with wildflowers, weeds and shrub thickets. Tall wheat and milo stubble may also be productive. Hunters can save a lot of time and gas money by scouting Open Fields and Waters Program properties remotely with Google Earth. Those willing to hunt hard and put in the time scouting should be successful.

-          Andy Moore, Loess Canyons Coordinating Wildlife Biologist, Quail Forever – North Platte


I would say hunting here in southwest Nebraska was great again in areas with superior habitat. Most groups I talked to had the opportunity to shoot a limit of birds. Although the area is faced with one of our worst droughts ever, hunters were very excited to see birds and thought quail numbers were much higher than expected. My group of four – consisting of family and friends – were pleased to harvest 6 roosters and 13 quail on the morning of pheasant opener this last weekend, hunting primarily good early succession habitat adjacent to cropland. With a little frost on the ground and cool weather, the dogs worked great! Limits weren’t filled, but not due to opportunity!  

-          Andy Houser, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – McCook


Have you been pheasant hunting in Nebraska this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below. 

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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4 Responses to “Pheasant Hunting Opening Weekend Report: Southwest Nebraska”

  1. Matt says:

    I hunted near Beaver City and Hendley in Furnas County on opening day and killed 2 roosters and one bobwhite, and should have filled my limit except for a couple of misses on slightly rangier birds. My shorthair had great points on hen pheasants and quail, and a couple of roosters, but the roosters were generally a little skittish, even on opening weekend. We got up more birds out of cut wheatfields than I have ever seen, and I plan to hunt them a little more this weekend west of McCook. I do feel that the number of birds in Furnas County was down this year, we will see what Hitchcock County has in store for us this weekend.

  2. Matt says:

    Well, I hunted Hitchcock County this past weekend, mostly near Palisade and Culbertson, and I will say that without a doubt, there are fewer birds than there have been the past 2-3 years. We hunted hard both days and only flushed 4 Roosters withing shooting range, and 2 coveys of quail. The fields that I am used to seeing many birds get out of (over 100 in years past) were not worth much other than exercise. Cover is much thinner, CRP has been mowed for hay or heavily grazed, and additionally, saw only 2 or 3 birds on the roads, which is significantly less than in the past. This only backs up what my friend, who farms in the area, told me prior to the season…that they just didn’t see the birds during harvest this year that they have in the past. Hopefully the drought ends soon and the population can start to rebound.

  3. Bob says:

    Hunted NW Iowa opening day, and the group of 5 got 14. Hunted near Wilber in NE on week two. I got into a nice covey, and later shot 3 pheasants. CRP was all mowed. The birds were in what was left of it…low or rough spots where mowers couldn’t go.

  4. Robert says:

    Hunted Dundy county for the opener, only heard 5 shots the first two hours after sunrise. Plenty of hunters in the field but few birds to be found. Seeing all the mowed CRP was disturbing. I thought fields were supposed to be 1/2 mowed in drought emergency years and not fully mowed. This county is in really bad shape, if they have a harsh winter almost no cover to sustain them over and suspect there could be a bad mortality rate. Why does Nebraska Game and Parks not put more priority in keeping some of the CRP standing? This season will be worst in years no doubt.


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