LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska is the mixed-bag capital of the Great Plains, and another fall of diverse upland bird hunting opportunities awaits hunters.
According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s 2021-22 Upland Game Bird Hunting Outlook, nesting conditions were favorable during May and early June but increasingly dry conditions during late summer may have affected brood survival and limited re-nesting opportunities in certain areas. Still, upland hunters willing to adapt to the changing conditions should find success this season.
Pheasant counts were mixed during this year’s April and July Rural Mail Carrier Surveys, but hunters are cautioned dry conditions may have inhibited roadside observations in some areas. The Southwest and Panhandle regions were affected by drought conditions last year but continue to support some of highest pheasant numbers. These regions offer abundant public access and should provide the best pheasant hunting opportunities this fall.
Northern bobwhite quail populations have been negatively affected by severe winter weather in recent years and remain below long-term averages, according to this year’s July RMCS and Whistle Count Survey. Still, favorable nesting and brood-rearing conditions throughout the species’ core range in south-central and southeast Nebraska are expected to help quail populations rebound. Hunters should expect to find similar quail numbers to last year across portions of the southern Nebraska and fewer elsewhere in the state.
The Sandhills will offer the best hunting opportunities for greater prairie-chickens and sharp-tailed grouse this fall. Portions of the Panhandle and Southwest regions also provide good opportunities, but where drier conditions have prevailed, prairie grouse hunting may be more challenging due to the sparse cover.
The Outlook is based on surveys and field reports from biologists. Surveys provide a broad assessment of upland game species abundance. Regional habitat trends and weather conditions that could affect populations also are considered.
Visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/upland/#forecast to read the Upland Game Bird Hunting Outlook, as well as summaries of upland bird survey results. Other resources are available from that page, including the 2021-22 Public Access Atlas, information on the Nebraska Upland Slam and a link to purchase permits.
Due to the changing habitat conditions throughout the state, preseason scouting is recommended. Upland hunters should be aware that the USDA has authorized emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program lands in 70 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. This likely will affect the cover, and associated hunting opportunities, on some CRP fields this fall, including some open to public, walk-in hunting through Game and Parks’ Open Fields and Waters Program. For more information, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/crp-faqs/.
The hunting season for pheasant, quail and partridge is Oct. 30, 2021 – Jan. 31, 2022. The prairie grouse season is Sept. 1, 2021 – Jan. 31, 2022.