LINCOLN – Upland game hunters across Nebraska will have improved prospects during this year’s pheasant season, which opens Oct. 31. Pheasant numbers are 55 percent higher than last year.
Nebraska’s weather has been kind to the state’s upland game this year. The state has experienced relatively mild winters recently, which has aided over-winter survival of pheasants. The more pheasants – particularly hens – that survive the winter, the larger the breeding stock is for the breeding season.
The favorable spring weather this year allowed pheasant populations to increase in relatively short order. Rainfall this past spring appears to not have occurred during the sensitive phases of the nesting and brood-rearing periods; chicks during the first week or so of life cannot regulate their own body temperatures and have low survival if they become wet and catch a chill.
The timely spring rainfall also produced abundant vegetation, which in turn produced abundant insects. The insects provide chicks with food they need to grow and develop into healthy adult birds. Having adequate nutrition during development can result in healthier adult birds and possibly increase their survival through the winter. The vegetation also provided ample habitat for nesting and for brood-rearing, which had been lacking.
Surveys this year have indicated that pheasant abundance was higher in all regions of the state compared to 2014. The southwest and Panhandle regions should offer the best hunting opportunities this year, but better opportunities should be available statewide.
The season runs through Jan. 31, 2016. The entire state is open to pheasant hunting, although no hunting is allowed on state refuges and sanctuaries. Only rooster pheasants may be harvested. The daily bag limit is three and the possession limit is 12.
Quail season dates are the same as for pheasant. Surveys have indicated increases in abundance of quail compared to 2014 across almost all of the quail’s range. Habitat conditions were excellent for production and brood-rearing across the state. The southeast and south central parts of the state should offer the best opportunities this year, but there will be good opportunities throughout quail range.
To view the full report, visit OutdoorNebraska.org, and then click on Hunting, Upland Game, and Forecast. Hunters can find public hunting sites as well as private sites open to public walk-in hunting in the Nebraska Public Access Atlas. Go to OutdoorNebraska.org, and then click on Guides.