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Thanksgiving Pheasout

My family and I got back “out west” for a long Thanksgiving weekend and we enjoyed every minute of it.  Yes, we spent a lot of time with family and in feasting, but we managed to slip outdoors a bit too. . . .

You probably already have heard me tout the wide variety of hunting and fishing opportunities we have in Nebraska.  We ARE the mixed-bag capital of the world.  I love all of it, all of the hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities.  It is hard to do it all, there only is so much time.  So, one of my strategies has been to try to stay flexible and take advantage of the best opportunities at the time.  As seasons change, as weather conditions change, there are better times and places for different pursuits.

For example, I love to ice-fish and I know that first ice is some of the best ice-fishing of the year.  As we prepared to head west last week, I had reports of some safe ice and fish being pulled through ice holes already.  Believe me, my son and I were prepared to load the ice gear and do some rare Thanksgiving ice-fishing (I have ice-fished Nebraska waters on Thanksgiving once before).  However, after keeping an eye on the weather forecast and an ear on reliable ice reports, we ended up aborting the ice-fishing plan.  The shotguns and open-water fishing gear got loaded instead.  Yes, sometimes we take A LOT of gear on trips, just in case opportunities present themselves.  We were ready to load ice-fishing AND open-water fishing gear along with the shotguns and vests; with Nebraska’s mixed bag opportunities, a guy needs a big pickup to haul everything.

Now, I am old enough to know that there have been better days for pheasant hunting in Nebraska, and I know that habitat conditions simply ain’t nothing like they used to be.  I have lived through several “ups” and “downs” in pheasant populations, but even in the worst of times, there are still pockets of habitat where a person can find some birds.  A person can either sit at home and whine about it, or get out there and hunt.

I will tell you that for me the “prime time” for hunting pheasants is when there is some snow on the ground.  We certainly did not have that over Thanksgiving weekend, but we often slip out for a quick pheasant hunt before the Thanksgiving feast.  We did not hunt long, did not cover a lot of ground, just hit the hot spots near my in-law’s place, but we found some birds.  In fact we were pleasantly surprised by the number of pheasants and quail that we saw.  Last year I sent shot towards rooster pheasants only a couple of times, did not bring any of them home with me, so I was feeling great when I got over on the west edge of a patch of weeds and in two shots put a couple of roosters on the ground.  This time the boys did most of the hard work while the old man got most of the shooting.

My nephew has a pup, Oakley, who has a lot to learn, but he did some flushing and retrieving for us. . . .

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Let me have some fun with pictures. . . .

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“Smile for the camera, Oakley.”
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“Nice flushing, dog.”
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“Nice shooting, Tex.” (The dog calls me “Tex”)

That was the only hunting we did.  We did bust a few blue rocks after the Thanksgiving feast . . .some of us did OK, some of us need more practice.  The rest of the weekend was too nice for hunting.

So, we fished instead.

We wandered up towards Lake Ogallala; the trout fishery there is still one of the best in the country.  I have done well there this fall ( Half Combo , Smile ), and last Thanksgiving my son caught and released a monster rainbow there ( Fall Fishing Review ).  Again, I am not going to tell you that we hammered the fish.  The water was low, cold, and clear.  The bite was tough, very technical, but we kept at it, and eventually we managed to dry off a few.  We caught and released rainbows up to 19 inches.

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I let the boys catch some too.  Here’s another nephew:

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And my son finally scored too.

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Those are my latest adventures in Nebraska’s great outdoors.  I spent some time in some of my favorite places with family, enjoyed some beautiful weather, saw a lot of wildlife and had some success.  We are entering the holiday season and I will be burning some annual leave in the coming days.  We will see what the conditions dictate, what opportunities present themselves, I will keep you posted.

P.S.  With last year’s lack of success, it has been awhile since my wife fried up a pheasant.  She did that Monday night after we got home, and let me tell you it was like a pack of wolves–pheasant gone!  “Burp!”

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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