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Excitement builds as Nebraska’s Oct. 30 pheasant opener approaches

LINCOLN, Neb. – Hunters from around the country will take to the fields this Saturday for Nebraska’s pheasant, quail and partridge season opener.

According to surveys, the Southwest and Panhandle regions should offer the best pheasant hunting opportunities again this fall. Pheasant counts during this year’s July Rural Mail Carrier Survey were down compared to 2020, but field reports suggest dry conditions likely inhibited roadside observations in some areas.

“This is always an exciting time of year and we hope that many hunters get a chance to experience our state’s diverse upland bird hunting opportunities this season,” said John Laux, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission upland program manager.

Nebraska’s quail populations were affected negatively by severe weather this past winter and counts were down slightly according to this year’s Spring Whistle Count Survey. Nesting and brood-rearing conditions were favorable throughout much of south-central and southeastern Nebraska, which makes up the state’s core bobwhite range. Quail numbers are expected to be similar to last year across southern Nebraska and relatively lower elsewhere in the state.

View the full upland hunting forecast at OutdoorNebraska.org/upland.

Dry, stable weather in recent weeks has been favorable for crop harvest. Fewer standing crops may enhance hunter success early in the season. According to an Oct. 25 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, corn and soybean harvest were 60% and 88% complete, respectively — well ahead of the five-year average.

Habitat conditions statewide remain variable due to increasingly dry conditions, and preseason scouting is recommended. Dry conditions triggered emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program lands in 70 of Nebraska’s 93 counties this summer and fall. This likely will affect cover on some CRP fields in approved counties, including some Game and Parks Open Fields and Waters sites. For more information, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/crp-faqs.

Hunters seeking places to hunt should view the 2021-22 Public Access Atlas, which displays more than 1.2 million acres of publicly accessible lands throughout Nebraska. In addition to state, federal and conservation partner lands, more than 374,000 acres of private lands are enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters Program and featured in the atlas. For hunters pursuing upland birds in western Nebraska, the Stubble Access Guide displays an additional 40,000 acres of tall wheat or milo stubble fields and adjacent habitats open to public hunting access. Both publications are available at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas.

Hunters must obtain permission prior to accessing privately-owned (non-OFW) lands in Nebraska, regardless if the property is posted or not.

Game and Parks urges hunters to use caution while afield and offers the following recommendations to help prevent wildfires:

• Do not drive or park in tall grass.

• Do not light open fires.

• Properly dispose of cigarettes and other potentially flammable objects.

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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