LINCOLN – Hunters in several areas of the state enjoyed good success during the opening weekend of Nebraska’s pheasant and quail seasons, Oct. 25-26.
With the number of birds seen up throughout much of the state, prospects for success improve as hunting conditions improve. Opening-weekend temperatures were unseasonably warm and unharvested crop fields gave pheasants ample cover.
Some of the best opening-weekend success was on wildlife management areas (WMAs) where pheasants had been released for the Oct. 18-19 youth pheasant season. Those areas are:
Pressey; Sherman Reservoir; Oak Valley; Branched Oak; Twin Oaks; Hickory Ridge; Wilkinson; Peru Bottoms and Yankee Hill.
The opening weekend also had an economic impact on Nebraska. Tyler Loop, owner of a brewery and restaurant in McCook, said he had several out-of-town and out-of-state customers all weekend. He also took his family hunting in the area.
“Bird numbers seemed to be up quite a bit this year compared to last year thanks to all the rain we have received,” Loop said. “There’s still a lot of uncut corn, which made it tougher. But we still saw more birds, which was a good sign. It was hot, but I plan to go out again now that I know the birds are around. It was a good hunt.”
A summary of district law enforcement reports from the opening weekend:
A conservation officer checked 34 hunters with 22 pheasants and seven quail harvested on the opening day at Twin Oaks WMA. Another officer checked 35 hunters at Peru Bottoms WMA. Hunters contacted at Yankee Hill WMA reported seeing birds and getting several shots. At Oak Valley WMA, 80 percent of the birds shot had been stocked. Many birds were seen in the Rainwater Basins in Fillmore County. Staff on WMAs reported good quail numbers and said harvest was twice what it was a year ago.
Hunters averaged about .75 birds per hunter in the district. Other than Pressey WMA, where hunters commented on how good the habitat appeared, and Sherman Reservoir WMA, where hunters averaged 1.39 harvested pheasants per hunter, the southwest part of the district had the most birds. South Lincoln, southeast Perkins, north Hayes, Hitchcock, Chase, Dundy were the best. Most of the hunters in the southwest part of the district were nonresidents. Hunters on Sacramento-Wilcox WMA averaged .5 to .75 harvested pheasants per hunter on opening day.
While hunting pressure was light throughout the district, an officer working Box Butte County on opening day reported seeing more pheasants than he had seen in 24 years of working the area. He said the 19 hunters he checked averaged nearly two harvested birds per hunter. Pheasant numbers also were excellent in Cheyenne County. Landowners reported seeing more pheasants than they had in many years.
An officer working Dixon County checked 28 hunters with 39 pheasants, with most of that success at Audubon Bend WMA. In addition, numbers of quail seen and in the bag were higher in Nance County than a year ago. An officer working Stanton, Platte and Colfax counties checked 65 hunters with 44 pheasants. Most of that success was at Wilkinson WMA. Hunters in Knox County saw good numbers of birds as 18 hunters were checked with 22 pheasants.
No hunting-related accidents were reported to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The hunting season for pheasant, quail and partridge is open through Jan. 31. Game and Parks reminds hunters to keep safety as their top priority.
Hunters should be aware of the following safety tips:
— Never point the muzzle of a shotgun at anything you do not intend to shoot.
— Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
— Always use the safety on a firearm but never depend on it.
— Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.
— Know where each person in your party is at all times.
— Know your safe zone of fire.
— Although not required for upland bird hunting, blaze orange should be worn by everyone in your party.
Hunters accessing private land must first get permission and should leave the area as they found it. Do not litter or leave gates open.
The Open Fields and Waters program allows private land to be open to hunters for walk-in access. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org and search “Public Access Atlas” to view the most up-to-date printable maps.