Posts Tagged ‘Open Fields and Waters Program’

Pheasant Hunting Opening Weekend Report: Southwest Nebraska

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:

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 and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

PF Helps Grow Pheasant Hunting Access in Southwest Nebraska

Friday, October 26th, 2012

All Nebraska CRP-MAP signs will eventually be replaced by these Open Fields and Waters Program signs.

New for 2012, Nebraska’s popular Conservation Reserve Program-Management Access Program, or CRP-MAP, has been restructured and transitioned into the state’s Open Fields and Waters Program. More than 275,000 acres are enrolled in the program for Nebraska sportsmen and women this year. Nebraska’s pheasant hunting and quail hunting seasons open Saturday, October 27th.

Despite the restructuring, Pheasants Forever continues to be a major program partner. “Nebraska Pheasants Forever chapters raise money and donate it to the program for making access payments to landowners, habitat incentive contracts for wildlife habitat upgrades, and help pay for the atlas and Coordinating Wildlife Biologist positions,” says Caroline Hinkelman, Coordinating Wildlife Biologist with Pheasants Forever who manages the Open Fields and Waters Program in partnership with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.

Hinkelman says because Nebraska expanded its Focus on Pheasants areas, more landowners were able to enroll in the access program because of additional payments for walk-in access and habitat improvement incentive payments. “We lost some areas in the eastern part of the state due to the loss of CRP signups, but we gained acres in the southwest – Focus on Pheasants sites and Small Grain Stubble Management Program – and then some larger access sites in the northwest part of the state,” Hinkelman says.

While new, similar looking Open Fields and Waters Program signs are being phased in, hunters may still encounter a lot of CRP-MAP signs out there, so they’re encouraged to know what both look like.

Open Fields and Waters Program areas can be found using the Nebraska Public Access Atlas, which is also available on the go as free smartphone ap. And Hunters looking for that extra edge can use Google Earth to scout out sites with aerial images.

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