Pack your bags
With long seasons, affordable permits and mixed bag opportunities for pheasants, quail, grouse and more — Nebraska is an incredible place to experience an upland bird hunt. Explore this site to learn more about our species, find the best spots to hunt and plan your next hunting trip.
Pheasant and Quail:
Sept. 1, 2017 – Jan. 31, 2018
Oct. 28, 2017 – Jan. 31, 2018
Permits can be purchased online, at any district office, state park or permit vendor.
Pheasant hunting in Nebraska
Pheasant hunting has been a cornerstone of Nebraska outdoor recreation since the 1920s, and it remains a treasured tradition. Recent years have brought a rebound in pheasant numbers statewide, and research in southwest Nebraska suggests that populations experienced high winter survival rates going into the 2016 breeding season. In addition, Nebraska Game and Parks recently unveiled the Berggren Plan for Pheasants, an ambitious and innovative five-year plan to improve pheasant populations across the state. When it comes to pheasants, Nebraska also offers affordable permits, a long season, lots of birds on public land in target areas and mixed-bag opportunities for pheasants, quail and grouse in many parts of the state.
The best pheasant hunting opportunities have traditionally been in the Southwest region of the state. Other areas with good opportunity include the Panhandle, particularly north of Alliance, South-central portions of the state and across the state where habitat and access opportunities overlap.
The map below shows areas around the state that are likely to have suitable pheasant habitat. Visit the Public Access Atlas to view detailed maps of public hunting areas across Nebraska and plan your hunt.
In 2016, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission unveiled a five-year plan aimed at growing Nebraska’s pheasant population and increasing land open to hunting in areas with abundant pheasants. The overall goal is to produce the best pheasant hunting experience for the most hunters.
Focus on Pheasants is a program dedicated to improving pheasant habitat. Landowners in certain regions may be eligible for incentives for implementing agricultural practices favorable to pheasants on their land.
Youth ages 15 and younger are encouraged to participate in special youth pheasant hunts during the Oct. 22-23, 2016 statewide youth pheasant, quail and partridge season.
Rooster pheasants will be released at 14 wildlife management areas before the special youth hunt season. The special hunts are open to the public, and the number of participants is not limited. No registration or special permit is required. Special regulations posted at each of the 14 WMAs will apply to all portions of the designated areas normally open to hunting. All other current youth and regular hunting regulations also will be in effect on these designated areas.
Pheasants will be released at the following WMAs: Pressey (Custer County); Sherman Reservoir (Sherman County); Oak Valley (Madison County); Branched Oak (Lancaster County); Twin Oaks (Johnson County); Hickory Ridge (Johnson County); Wilkinson (Platte County); Peru Bottoms (Nemaha County), Yankee Hill (Lancaster County), Cornhusker (Hall County), Arrowhead (Gage County), George Syas (Platte County), Randall W. Schilling (Cass County), and William Gilmour (Tobacco Island), Cass County.
The special regulations on these WMAs include:
- Only nontoxic shot may be used at Wilkinson, Peru Bottoms, Randall W. Schilling, and William Gilmour WMAs.
- Adult mentors must be licensed hunters age 19 or older to accompany a youth.
- Adult mentors may harvest one rooster pheasant per day only.
- The 14 WMAs are the only locations where adults may harvest pheasants during the youth season.
- Arrowhead, George Syas, Randall W. Schilling and William Gilmour WMAs are new additions to the list of hunting sites this year.
- Only one adult mentor per youth will be allowed to hunt (additional non-hunting mentors may accompany the youth on the hunt).
- Youth may harvest two roosters per day.
Quail, specifically the bobwhite species, are native to Nebraska and can be found throughout much of the state. The bobwhite is among the most popular game birds in the state, second only to the ring-necked pheasant. The distinctive “bob-bob-white” call of the male bobwhite can be heard along country roads from early spring to early summer.
In recent years, bobwhite populations have greatly increased in Nebraska. During the 2016-17 hunting season, harvest was nearly 45 percent higher than the 10-year average. According to the April 2017 Rural Mail Carrier Survey, bobwhite populations were up approximately 28 percent from the 10-year average. Favorable weather conditions so far in 2017 make for a promising year.
Traditionally, bobwhites are found in most of Southeast Nebraska and west along the southern border with Kansas, and as their numbers have grown, quail have spread into other regions of the state where suitable habitat exists.
The majority of public hunting opportunities within the quail range in Nebraska occur on private land enrolled in Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters program. These sites are open to public, walk-in hunting and offer a variety of habitat types.
Bobwhite quail are considered an “edge species,” meaning they often occur where two or more different habitat types come together. Edges occur where grasslands converge with other cover types such as cropland or woodlands. Weedy areas within grasslands can also create the edge habitat preferred by bobwhites. Dense stands of grass (such as CRP fields) are often avoided by quail because they are too thick. Instead focus on the edges of CRP fields that border other cover types mentioned above or seek out weedy patches with ample amounts of bare ground. Another key habitat element used extensively by bobwhites is woody cover, but it has to be the right kind. Unlike stands of mature trees, native shrub thickets (American plum, chokecherry, among others) and downed trees provide ideal loafing and escape cover for bobwhites. These habitat components serve as “covey headquarters” and are often found along field borders, fence lines, or within grasslands. Those adjacent to a high-quality food source, such as corn or sorghum, are ideal locations to find bobwhite quail.
Nebraska is home to two grouse species, the greater prairie-chicken and the sharp-tailed grouse. The greater prairie-chicken has a more easterly distribution, occupying the Sandhills into northeastern Nebraska and south into south-central and southwestern Nebraska. There is also a population of greater prairie-chickens in the southeastern part of the state.
The sharp-tailed grouse occupies grasslands from the Sandhills into the Panhandle. The range of these two species overlap in the Sandhills, and hunters may rarely encounter hybrid grouse in this area.
Upland bird outlook for 2017
The 2017 upland game forecast is based on spring and summer upland-game population surveys, including the July Rural Mail Carrier Surveys, and the Northern Bobwhite Whistle Count Survey. In addition, biologists from several districts provided input on regional weather events that could have impacted populations and general habitat conditions.
- 2017 Upland Game Forecast
- July 2017 Rural Mail Carrier Survey
- April 2017 Rural Mail Carrier Survey
- 2017 Northern Bobwhite Whistle Count Survey
You may view past survey results at the links below:
- 2016 Upland Game Forecast
- July 2016 Rural Mail Carrier Survey
- April 2016 Rural Mail Carrier Survey
- 2016 Norther Bobwhite Whistle Count
- 2015 Hunter Success Survey
Other hunting opportunities
Along with ring-necked pheasant, quail and grouse, dove and partridge provide unique hunting experiences statewide. Small game hunters can also find woodcock, snipe, cottontail, jackrabbit and squirrel — a variety found in few other states.
Planning your trip
Those hunting in Nebraska will encounter the state’s famous Midwestern hospitality. Across the state, hunters will find great places to stay, eat and be entertained. The resources below will help you plan your trip.
- Nebraska’s state parks and recreation areas make for great places for hunters to stay or camp. You can find a cabin or camping spot through our park amenities search.
- The Nebraska Department of Agriculture maintains a statewide list of outfitters, hunting lodges and other resources for hunters. View the list on the Department of Agriculture website.
- The Nebraska State Tourism Commission website can help you find hotels, restaurants and interesting attractions throughout the state.