Have Dogs, Will Hunt

January 5, 2023 eric fowler


Mike Plate of Alma takes aim at a covey of quail he flushed while hunting a field enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters Program in Furnas County.

Photo by Eric Fowler.

Story and photos by Eric Fowler

With pheasant and quail season heading into its third and final month, roughly one-third of upland hunters have packed it in for the year. Not Mike Plate and Aric Werner.

Plate grew up in Kimball, hunting pheasants and quail behind his father’s pointers around the Panhandle. Werner hunted pheasants in central Nebraska with his father while growing up in Grand Island, sans dogs.

The two, who live in Alma and Republican City, respectively, have been hunting together since they met after Plate moved back from California in 2014. They hunt only a little in Nebraska early, and in recent years, travel to Wyoming or Montana to chase grouse and Hungarian partridge. But come late November, after rifle deer season closes, you will find them combing through grasslands, weedy draws and thickets of south-central Nebraska nearly every weekend in search of pheasants and quail.

Mike Plate cradles a double-barreled shotgun. Photo by Eric Fowler.

The slow start isn’t about avoiding the early season rush of hunters. It’s waiting for the weather to cool off. “Once it gets cold, those birds kind of move into the cover where you can approach a little bit easier,” Werner said.

You can bet they will be out after a snow, or any moisture. But not if it’s bitter cold. They’re to the point in life that they don’t like the cold any more than their short-haired pointing dogs. And the birds don’t need the added stress, Plate said.

With eight pointing dogs between them, five for Plate and three for Werner, they pretty much have to hunt.

Mike Plate’s Llewellin setter, Rock, holds a point. Photo by Eric Fowler.

“They get fat and my wife gets frustrated because they have so much energy when they get in shape,” Werner added. “It gives me a good excuse to get out quite a bit.”

“You’ve got to feed them all summer,” Plate added. “You might as well hunt them all winter.”

Jokes aside, the two, like anyone who has ever hunted behind a good dog, will tell you watching those four-legged machines work is why they hunt. And why, whether bird numbers are up or down, they will see the season through to the end. 

Aric Werner and Mike Plate hold their day’s bag of pheasants and quail. Photo by Eric Fowler.

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