LINCOLN – Nebraskans enjoyed another upland bird season opener on Oct. 29. While hunters reported seeing good numbers of birds, unseasonably warm, dry weather over much of the state negatively affected hunter success.
Dry conditions resulted in poor scenting conditions for dogs. Reports indicated that hunters’ dogs were having difficulty locating downed pheasants. Wind was an issue in some parts of the state, as well. Hunters also reported birds flushing wild, well ahead of their hunting parties, but were seeing birds in the field. Hunters reported good numbers of quail range-wide. Hunting activity was low on Oct. 30, with few hunters afield despite more moderate weather conditions.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff and law enforcement made contact with more than 1,111 hunters statewide over opening weekend for which bag checks were reported. These hunters harvested 651 pheasants (0.59 roosters per hunter) and 143 quail (0.13). On pheasant release sites, and additional 932 hunters were encountered, with 502 pheasants harvested (0.54). Harvest success was generally higher across the state compared to at pheasant release sites.
The following is a report of hunting activity by district:
Southwest – Hunters were greeted by warm, dry conditions on opening day with a high temperature of 82 degrees in Harlan County. Between 25-85 percent of crops had been harvested across the district. Contact was made with 624 hunters, with 315 roosters harvested (0.51 per hunter) and 109 quail (0.18). Over most of the region staff reported hunters encountering abundant pheasant and quail, with success suffering because of “poor shooting” and wild flushing birds that hunters could not get close to. Most out-of-state hunters were from Colorado, but others were from Kansas, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Southeast – Hunters reported dropping birds, but their dogs being unable to locate them due to poor conditions for scenting. Nearly 95 percent of the crops appeared to have been harvested across the region. Hunting activity dropped off considerably late on opening day and on the following day, despite early activity afield being higher than in 2015. Contact was made with 107 hunters across the region, outside of the pheasant release areas, that harvested 59 pheasants (0.55 per hunter) and 20 quail (0.19). On pheasant release sites, an additional 371 hunters were contacted and harvested 155 roosters (0.42).
Northwest – Above-average temperatures and dry conditions affected hunter success. Those hunting north of Alliance reported seeing between 150 and 200 pheasants afield, and got 70 up from one 3- to 5-acre field. A separate party hunting southeast of Sidney reported pheasant abundance was the best it had seen in 30 years. Crops were 20-60 percent harvested across the cultivated area of the region. Contact was made with 119 hunters, who harvested 171 pheasants (1.44 per hunter). No quail were reported harvested, but the region is mostly outside of the quail range in Nebraska.
Northeast – Hunter activity was low across the region, even though conditions were more conducive for upland hunting – cooler temperatures and damp air – in some parts of the district. Hunters afield saw good numbers of birds, despite low success rates. The exceptions to low participation were Elk Point Bend and Audubon wildlife management areas, where pressure and success were high. Contact was made with 261 hunters outside of pheasant release sites. They harvested 106 roosters (0.41 per hunter) and 14 quail (0.5). On pheasant release sites, an additional 246 hunters were contacted. They harvested 169 pheasants (0.69).
The season continues through Jan. 31. Permits can be purchased at OutdoorNebraska.org.