Diverse hunting opportunities await Nebraska highland birders again this fall, and those willing to adapt to changing climate and habitat conditions should find success in many areas of the state.
“Surveys conducted earlier this summer looked more promising this year, but variable habitat conditions may pose challenges for hunters this fall due to the increasingly dry conditions that have prevailed across much of the state,” said John Laux. , Nebraska Highlands Game Program Manager. Games and Parks Commission.
Statewide, pheasant counts increased 26% during rural letter carrier surveys from July of this year and exceeded five-year averages in the Northeast, Southeast and Panhandle regions. Pheasant habitat is more isolated in eastern Nebraska, but where quality cover exists, hunters should find better numbers of birds. Parts of the Panhandle region continue to host some of the highest numbers of pheasants in the state, but populations remain variable due to the effects of drought in recent years.
The recent mild winter benefited northern quail populations throughout much of the state, with numbers increasing in five of the six management regions. The current nesting season is promising and could increase numbers further, although population levels are expected to remain below peaks in recent years. According to surveys, the southeast and south-central regions are home to some of the highest quail densities in the state and should provide some of the best hunting opportunities this fall.
The southeastern and far western portions of the Sandhills should offer the best hunting opportunities for prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse this fall. For the second year, dry conditions have reduced coverage across much of the state’s prairie grouse range. Based on field reports, production appears to be below average this year, but is highly variable. Finding adequate cover can be a challenge, but it will be the key to a successful hunt this season.
Upland hunters should know that the US Department of Agriculture has authorized emergency stocking and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program lands in 88 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Like last year, this will likely affect remaining coverage, and associated hunting opportunities, at some CRP fields across the state this fall, including some open to the public, walk-in hunting through the Fields and Waters Program. Game and Parks Opens. For more information, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/crp-faqs.
Game and Parks recommends pre-season scouting as habitat conditions continue to change throughout the state.
Hunters should also be aware that drought conditions have increased the risk of wildfires in many areas of the state, and Game and Parks urges them to take the following precautions while out in the field:
- Restrict driving to established roads and trails
- Avoid parking vehicles in tall vegetation
- Restrict the use of campfires
- Dispose of cigarettes and other flammable objects properly.
Upland Outlook is based on biologists’ field reports, surveys of game species abundance, regional habitat trends, and weather conditions that could affect populations.
For the full perspective, detailed summaries of upland bird survey results, and other information about upland hunting, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/Upland.
To find places to hunt, pick up the 2022-23 Nebraska Public Access Atlas at a Game and Parks office or from numerous vendors throughout the state. This publication lists all public access land in Nebraska and is also available in various versions online at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas.
Pheasant, quail and partridge hunting season is October 29-January 31, 2023. Prairie Grouse season is September 1-January 31, 2023.