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Upland bird opportunities await Nebraska hunters this fall

LINCOLN, Neb. – Another fall of diverse upland bird hunting opportunities awaits Nebraska hunters.

The Southwest and Panhandle regions will provide the best hunting opportunities for pheasants, with more publicly accessible lands – primarily Open Fields and Waters – available in the Southwest, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s 2019 Upland Gamebird Hunting Outlook.

Overwinter survival was relatively high for pheasants this year but the cool, wet conditions that persisted into May and June likely had a negative impact on nesting success. However, habitat conditions have remained good to excellent and brood survival should be relatively high for those that successfully hatched. The statewide pheasant index from the 2019 July Rural Mail Carrier Survey was 14% lower compared to 2018.

The Outlook is based on spring and summer upland game surveys and conditions reported by biologists. Regional habitat trends and weather conditions that could impact populations are considered.

The best quail hunting opportunities will be found in the Republican, Southeast and East Central regions, but hunters should expect to find lower densities compared to recent years. Bobwhites experienced declines in most regions and statewide indices from two surveys were 21-37% lower compared to 2018. However, bobwhites are prolific breeders and have the ability to repopulate areas very quickly where suitable habitat exists.

The highest densities of prairie grouse are found in the Sandhills region, which also offers an abundance of publicly accessible lands. Spring lek counts were generally lower compared to recent years, but hunters should still find good grouse numbers and plenty of cover to walk this fall. The Sandhills remain the most popular destination for prairie grouse hunters but other public access opportunities in the Southwest and Panhandle regions should not be overlooked.

The Commission reminds hunters that surveys provide a broad assessment of upland game species abundance, and cannot be used to determine game abundance at any particular hunting area. Pre-hunt scouting is recommended. The full forecast is available online at OutdoorNebraska.gov/Upland.

All publicly accessible lands are displayed in the 2019-20 Public Access Atlas which is available at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas. Hard copies of the Atlas are available at all Game and Parks offices and wherever else hunting and fishing permits are sold. Additional properties open to public hunting, including tall wheat and milo stubble fields will be added to the online version of the Atlas in mid-October.

The hunting season for pheasant, quail and partridge is Oct. 26, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020. The prairie grouse season is Sept. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020. Hunting permits may be purchased at OutdoorNebraska.org.

The Nebraska Upland Slam returns this fall for its second year. It invites hunters to try to take a pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie chicken and northern bobwhite in the state. For more information, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/UplandSlam.

Nonresidents can get a start on preparing for their Nebraska hunts using Trip Planners, located at OutdoorNebraska.gov/upland.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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