Nebraska truly is an upland game hunter’s paradise, with a dozen species of birds and small mammals available to hunt. Diverse habitats across the state offer opportunities for those seeking a “mixed bag” of small game.
Ring-necked pheasant and quail, along with grouse and dove, provide unique hunting experiences statewide. Small game hunters can also find woodcock, partridge, snipe, cottontail, jackrabbit and squirrel — a variety found in few other states.
Information about conditions and hunting forecasts for current and upcoming upland game seasons are published annually in the Upland Game Outlook. See this year’s outlook
Small game species:
The grey or Hungarian partridge (Perdix perdix) is an introduced game bird native to Eurasia. It is uncommon in Nebraska, being at the southern extent of the species introduced range in North America. The partridge is often raised in captivity and released by Controlled Shooting Areas and Captive Wildlife Permittees for hunting purposes, and escapees can often be found in suitable habitat around such areas.
Hunters in Nebraska may encounter three species of doves while afield. The most commonly harvested species is the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), which is a migratory species and one of the most popular game birds in the United States in terms of harvest. The white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) is an occasional visitor to Nebraska, but can be legally harvested during the regular dove season. The white-winged dove is also a migratory bird. Unlike mourning and white-winged doves, the Eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is a non-native, non-migratory species. The collared-dove was first introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s, and made landfall in Florida in the early 1980s. It has since spread across the country in a northwesterly direction. The collared-dove can be harvested year round, but during the regular dove season, harvested individuals count towards the aggregate dove bag limit. For more information visit The Central Flyway.
Dove hunters are encouraged to look for leg bands on any doves they shoot this year. Biologists across the country have placed bands on thousands of doves in Nebraska and 25 others states this summer and hunters can play a vital role in dove management by reporting any bands that they recover.
Sunflower, millet, or wheat generally provide good dove-hunting opportunities and have been planted at a number of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) across the state. A listing of those WMAs and additional areas offering good hunting opportunities in the 2017 Mourning Dove Hunting Fact Sheet. Doves’ activity patterns may change due to adverse weather conditions, changes in feeding field conditions and other factors. To have the best hunt possible, identify several potential hunting sites. Visit them often. Watch doves throughout the day to determine when and where they’re flying
The Sora (Porzana carolina) and Virginia rail (Rallus limicola) are migratory, freshwater marsh birds whose breeding range includes Nebraska. However, individuals that have bred further north migrate through the state during the fall migration. The common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is a migratory shorebird that breeds in northern Canada. Nebraska is at the northern extent of the species winter range, with peek migration occurring in mid-September through early October. Eastern Nebraska is at the western extreme of the American woodcock’s (Scolopax minor) breeding range. Unlike the rails and snipe, the woodcock is a forest-dwelling shorebird, nesting in young forests and old fields. A migratory species, the woodcock winters in the southeastern United States. Rails, snipe and woodcocks have hunting seasons.
The American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a migratory species, is resident year round in Nebraska. They are widespread across the state, especially in agricultural areas. In some areas of Nebraska aggregations of crows on roosts can constitute a public health hazard, necessitating a special harvest season in addition to hunting seasons.
Two species of cottontail rabbit can be found in Nebraska. The eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is the most widespread in the state. The desert or Audubon’s cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii) can be found primarily west of Ogallala. The cottontail is also an important game animal among small game hunters. There are also two species of jackrabbit, or hare, that call Nebraska home: the black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) and the white-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii). Both species can be hunted west of Highway 81 in Nebraska; east of Highway 81 there is a closed season on jackrabbits.
The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) can be found in Nebraska nearly everywhere except the treeless expanses of the Sandhills, Panhandle, and the southwest. The related grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) can be found along the Missouri River bluffs in southeastern Nebraska. Both species have hunting seasons. The southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans), found only in remnant fragments of eastern deciduous forests in extreme southeast Nebraska, is not a game species and is listed as a state threatened species.