I’m going to be truthful, this week has been tough to stay on task at work. My mind has constantly been wandering out to some of Nebraska’s uplands in search of birds that cackle and those that covey. My mind is being fueled by memories of opening days past and the birds, people and places that have become forever part of me. It’s also being driven by the anticipation of memories to be made this year.
As we near Saturday’s (10/28) pheasant and bobwhite quail opener its only gotten worse. Reports I have been getting for some time point toward an abundance of quail and a healthy population of roosters. Making it even more difficult to focus on job duties.
My own field observations have given me no reason to doubt them, either. During last weekend’s statewide Youth pheasant, quail and partridge season the dogs had no trouble finding pheasants to put to flight. In the distance even more cackled at our disturbances. These scenes have been on a repeat loop in my brain all week.
Now is time for some strategy.
- Hunt location. Many of us hunt the same spots each year. Be positive you have secured the required permission for any private lands you plan to hunt. It’s the law. If you are looking for place to hunt we can help. Check out the Public Access Atlas as there are lots of birds (and other game) in those colored spots.
- Start early. At the beginning of season pheasants can often move out of roosting cover pretty early. If there are crops still standing nearby they can disappear into them, making them nearly impossible to hunt. I do my best to catch birds before this happens early in the season. It also works in favor of the dogs as birds have left plenty of scent and conditions are usually ideal in the morning for the dogs to pick it up.
- Keep calm. Opening weekend is time for family and celebration. However, making lots of noise even at the very first field can make things more difficult for you. Slamming doors, dropping tailgates and all the shouting put everything on alert. Even birds that have never been hunted before are likely to move away from such commotion.
- Orange family. Be proud to be a bird hunter. Wear hunter orange. You are not sneaking up on pheasants or quail. They know you are there. Let the others in your group know where you are, too. It’s also a great showing for others too see how many of us are part of the Orange Family.
- Find food. This goes for both the bird and the bird hunter. Good breakfasts should always be part of the opening weekend traditions for the hunter. Pheasant and quail head towards their morning meal soon after stirring from their night roosting spot. Don’t be caught spending too long in the thick cover when the birds have already gone to breakfast.
- Team work. Pheasants like to run. It’s in their nature. Dogs like to chase things that run from them. It’s in their instincts. In cover and stubble fields that make for great places to run, use your buddies to help trap the birds into holding. You can do this by working toward sudden breaks in cover, posting blockers at the end or by carefully hunting parts of cover towards each other.
- Take a break. The older this bird hunter gets the more I see the importance of getting in some rest during the hunt day. This can help the dogs catch their breath and hunt more effectively, too. My experience has shown more productive hunting comes during the morning and late afternoon. No sense in burning everyone out during the less productive times.
- Have fun. Fun is the reason we go and being safe is the reason we get to do it again.
With just hours to go until a new season begins I cannot wait to join my mind in Nebraska’s bird fields. let the season begin.