Posts Tagged ‘Nebraska quail hunting’
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
“What is your ideal mixed bag hunt?” For me, it’s an easy answer: pheasant and quail in the same field. Nebraska is known for being a mixed bag state, so I’ve been anxiously waiting to get to day three of the Rooster Road Trip, where Nebraska Coordinating Wildlife Biologist Jake Holt tipped us off there had been a good quail hatch.
Unlike many hunting “tips,” Jake was dead on, and the “Cornhusker State” didn’t let us down. In fact, after nearly five days on the road, it brought us up. How did we do?
This was the best day of hunting for the Rooster Road Trip – ever.
Seventeen birds ended up in the bag today. Wild, publicly-accessed pheasants AND wild, publicly-accessed quail.
Our first field was a 30-acre parcel with the perfect amount of diverse cover, which produced a diverse mix of birds. Two munsterlanders, my red setter, and Andrew’s Lab, “Beau,” all hit the ground running. Within the first 100 yards a ringneck busted out of range, but luckily, it wasn’t the only bird. Hens were darting left and right past us.
I let Annie range down the line of hunters and she cast over to Andrew. Even though Andrew owns a Lab, he must have some pointer-owner in him somewhere, because he confidently let Annie work and then called over “Point!” No sooner than he said that, two bobs zipped past our line and our shot. Thankfully, those were only the scouts. Immediately after, a healthy 15-bird covey made the grass shake, and we scratched two down.
“Where we have grass, we have birds,” Holt said.
Pushing the field out, pheasants started flushing like grasshoppers in August. A rooster crossed right-left (my favorite shot), and thanks to well-placed Federal Prairie Storm 4’s, it ended up in the pack. Within 80 yards, we put up another covey of birds, and I dropped a cock bird. So, thirty minutes into hunting Nebraska, I had my first Cornhusker ringneck and bobwhite, a sequence I’ll play over and over again in the off-season. Thanks, Nebraska!
Shooting a Browning Citori 725, I had the opportunity to pick and choose my shells/barrel. Knowing I was officially in mixed bag country, I dropped a 7 steel in the top tube and 4 steel in the bottom. Shortly before the end of the field, I managed to bag my second rooster of the day on another right-left crossing shot (Rooster Road Trip Roadies, do you agree with this shell combo? What would you have used in this situation?).
I wish I could tell you names and other shots taken, but truthfully, there was too much shooting and too many birds to keep it straight! What I can tell you is every field we hunted produced in a big way, and these are areas open to you too. The Open Fields and Waters Program is a joint project of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever.
The only thing that topped the hunting today was the company. We were joined today by Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners Mick Jensen and Lynn Berggren. On the ride over, Commissioner Berggren and I discussed his youth growing up hunting pheasants in Nebraska and how he passed his outdoor tradition on to his children. He mentioned how important pheasant hunting has been and still is to the communities in Nebraska, both culturally and economically, and the positive things that are being done, especially with getting youth involved, to carry on the traditions.
From the dog work, to the pheasant/quail combo to the camaraderie, today will probably be one of the best days afield this season. It’s always a pleasure to share the field with people who share conservation and outdoor ethics, and today was no exception. With the last field pushed and photos wrapped up, the Nebraska commissioners and biologists heartily invited us back for a late season hunt, and after the day we had, there is no doubt we’ll be back.
Annie’s Tracks according to the Garmin Alpha: 9.61 miles
My Tracks: 6.30
Monday, November 5th, 2012
Having had very successful swings in southwest Nebraska the previous couple years, starting off Rooster Road Trip 2012 in the McCook area gave reason for optimism. The two big takeaways? We underestimated the impact of the historic drought on pheasant populations, and thank goodness for bobwhite quail.
There are still pheasants around – we moved at least one bird at every field – but work for our lone rooster we did. The dry weather has left quality cover scarce (and many fields were hayed or grazed under emergency guidelines from the U.S. Department of Ag to help producers) and good scenting conditions for dogs are even scarcer. Throw in the fact that birds are scattered in this second week of the season, there hasn’t been a significant weather game changer, and you’ve got a recipe for a good, old fashioned hard hunt. But when you’re a predominant public lands pheasant hunter, you get used to battling something: the crowds, a foot of snow, insert next factor here. Considering the emphasis Pheasants Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission place on improving habitat in this region, southwest Nebraska is poised for a ringneck rebound once the drought breaks.
While pheasant numbers aren’t what they’ve been the previous couple years, quail in this part of the state appear to have weathered the drought in highly reproductive fashion. The local hunters we talked to corroborated our eye witness reports (and seven public lands bobs in the bag); saying covey numbers seem to be up. Jerrod Burke, the District V Commissioner with Nebraska Game and Parks, and his 14-year-old son, Logan, joined the Rooster Road Trip to highlight Nebraska’s public land hunting opportunities, and the elder Burke says the opportunity for “mixed bags” – including bobwhites and prairie chickens – is one reason this area of Nebraska should remain on the traveling pheasant hunter’s list of places to cut the dogs loose. Burke’s polished Gordon setters, 5-year-old “Abbie” and 9-year-old “Willie,” helped prove his point, holding rock steady on multiple coveys found along brushy crick beds with nearby food sources. These were all public land coveys, and we left plenty of seed for next year.
If you don’t like competing for public hunting spots, southwest Nebraska may be for you – in three consecutive years of hunting in this region, we’ve ran into three other groups of upland hunters. That’s right, three. And this year, we crashed at the brand new, fully furnished cabins the Medicine Creek State Recreation Area, an outright steal at 80 bucks per night, and a great place to grab some quick shuteye before a long drive to Iowa and the second stop for Rooster Road Trip 2012.
Monday, November 5th, 2012
The opportunity to hunt quail in Nebraska and Kansas has been one of my favorite aspects of the Rooster Road Trip over the last three years. As I’ve blogged about many times, I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in the “Northwoods,” and when I encounter a covey of bobwhites I can’t help but draw similarities to ruffs. Both birds only give you a split second opportunity and their flush is often heard before viewed.
There are definitely unique aspects of bobwhites too. A bobwhite’s covey rise is a whirl of motion challenging the wingshooter to select a single bird without falling into “flock shooting,” in which you simply look at the entire flock without properly aiming at an individual bird. “Flock shooting” will almost always result in a miss.
However, it’s the sound of a bobwhite’s covey flush I enjoy most about the bird. Unlike the chainsaw-like explosion of a ruffed grouse or the cackling bad-ass attitude of a ring-neck, a bobwhite covey sounds like twenty throwing stars whirring threw the air if an army of ninja warriors had just entered the scene to fight Chuck Norris. (Obviously, Chuck Norris could triple on bobs with one shot).
So with each visit to “quail country,” my affinity for bobwhites grows more intense. As today’s Nebraska hunt produced more coveys than ring-necks, my mind started to wonder about the public land quail hunting version of the Rooster Road Trip. I can pretty easily come up with Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas as four states on a hypothetical Quail Forever “Quail Quest,” but the fifth state is a bit debatable. Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama are all conceivably doable based upon geography, but I have not personally experienced a quail hunt in any of these states.
What do you think the fifth state on a “Quail Quest” would be for the best public lands quail hunt?
Thursday, November 1st, 2012
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:
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.