2020-2020 Upland Game Bird Nebraska Hunting Outlook
The following forecast is based on spring and summer upland game population surveys, including the Rural Mail Carrier and the Northern Bobwhite Whistle Count surveys. Nebraska biologists also provided input on regional weather events and habitat trends that could have affected populations. The summaries and field reports below reflect the best available information on bird numbers, weather conditions and habitat trends among that state’s regions, but should not be used to predict hunting conditions or local population densities at any single location within a region. Preseason scouting is encouraged to increase hunter success.
For more information about upland game bird hunting in Nebraska, visit http://outdoornebraska.gov/upland/.
Winter survival was relatively high as pheasant counts during April’s RMCS were up 20% statewide compared to 2019. Habitat conditions were good going into nesting season, but most of the state experienced a heat wave in early- to mid-June, resulting in extremely hot and dry conditions during peak hatch. Fortunately, conditions immediately before and after were favorable, and timely rain in July and early August created good habitat conditions across most of the state.
Survey results and anecdotal reports suggest overall production was better than last year, at least within the core pheasant range. Statewide, pheasant counts from the July RMCS showed a slight increase (+5%) compared to 2019. Regional increases were observed in 3 of 6 regions, with the most notable increases in the Southwest (+47%) and Panhandle (+36%). These regions support the highest pheasant densities and will again provide some of the best pheasant hunting opportunities in 2020. Portions of western and northeastern Nebraska are becoming increasingly dry this fall, but early moisture created sufficient cover in most areas.
Pheasant hunters should be aware that emergency haying and grazing of CRP lands has been authorized in 33 counties (as of Aug. 31, 2020), and this may be expanded to other counties depending on subsequent weather patterns.