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Upland Hunting

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Whether you’re seeking pheasants, quail or grouse, Nebraska has the mixed bag opportunities for you. Take advantage of Nebraska’s long seasons, affordable permits, broad range of species and user-friendly “Where to Hunt” online mapping tool as you plan your next upland hunting adventure.

Season dates
Grouse:
Pheasant and Quail:

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Sept. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020
Oct. 26, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020

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 remains a treasured tradition. Nebraska Game and Parks is currently implementing the Berggren Plan for Pheasants, an ambitious and innovative five-year plan to improve the pheasant hunting experience by increasing habitat and public access opportunities within several priority areas located throughout the state. When it comes to pheasant hunting, Nebraska offers affordable permits, a long season, as well as mixed-bag opportunities for quail, prairie grouse, and other wildlife.

Where to hunt pheasants

Pheasants have a statewide distribution but certain areas of the state offer more suitable habitat and thus support higher numbers of pheasants. In recent years, pheasant densities have been highest in the Southwest and Panhandle regions, which continue to provide an abundance of habitat in the form of CRP and small grain fields, as well as unfarmed draws and playa wetlands.

The map below shows regions across Nebraska where the landscape is generally most suitable to support higher pheasant numbers. Good opportunities, however, can be found in multiple other areas across the state where habitat and access opportunities overlap. Visit the Public Access Atlas to view detailed maps of public hunting areas across Nebraska and plan your hunt. These regions also offer excellent public access opportunities – primarily on private lands enrolled in the NGPC’s Open Fields and Waters (OFW) Program. Although habitat is generally more limiting elsewhere in the state, hunters can still find good opportunities. Rainwater Basin wetlands in south-central Nebraska continue to be a popular pheasant hunting destination each year. Further east, pheasants are heavily reliant on CRP fields as these often provide the only form of undisturbed grassland habitat.

PheasantMegaPlanHeatMap_small_06172016

Berggren Plan for Pheasants

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. Efforts have been concentrated in eight priority areas across the state, and landowners may be eligible to receive incentives for implementing practices favorable to pheasants or allowing walk-in hunting access on their land. The overall goal is to produce the best pheasant hunting experience for the most hunters.
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Youth Hunts

Youth Pheasant, Quail, and Partridge Season

Youth ages 15 and younger are encouraged to participate in the statewide youth pheasant, quail and partridge season on Oct. 19-20, 2019. Only youth are allowed to hunt during the youth season EXCEPT at “Special Youth Hunts” on select WMAs (see below).

Special Youth Hunts

Rooster pheasants are scheduled to be released on 14 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s) before the 2019 youth season. These “Special Youth Hunts” are open to the public and no registration or special permit is required. Special regulations posted at each of the WMAs will apply to all portions of the designated areas normally open to hunting. All other current youth and regular hunting regulations will be in effect on these designated areas.

WMAs offering Special Youth Hunts
Powder Creek, (Dixon County), Oak Valley (Madison County), Wilkinson (Platte County), George Syas (Nance County), Sherman Reservoir (Sherman County), Pressey (Custer County), Cornhusker (Hall County), Kirkpatrick Basin North (York County), Branched Oak (Lancaster County), Yankee Hill (Lancaster County), Arrowhead (Gage County), Hickory Ridge (Johnson County), Twin Oaks (Johnson County), and Rakes Creek (Cass County).

Special Youth Hunt Rules

  • Hunt dates: October 19 & 20, 2019; no registration or special permit required
  • Youths must be age 15 or younger; accompanying adults must be licensed hunters age 19 or older.
  • Accompanying adults are allowed to hunt pheasants on these Special Youth Hunt WMAs. Only one accompanying adult per youth will be allowed to hunt (additional mentors may observe). All other current youth and regular hunting regulations apply.
  • Daily bag limit: Youth – 2 rooster pheasants; Accompanying Adult – 1 rooster pheasant
  • Only nontoxic shot may be used at Wilkinson and Kirkpatrick Basin North WMAs.

View Special Youth Hunt Map

For more information on regulations, view our Small Game & Waterfowl Guide.

Passing Along the Heritage Program (PATH)

The PATH program allows mentors to reserve sites for special youth hunting access on a first-come, first-served basis.

Quail hunting

Northern bobwhite quail are native to Nebraska and can be found throughout much of the state. Bobwhites are among the most popular game birds in the state, second only to the ring-necked pheasant. The distinctive “bob-bob-white” whistle of the male can be heard along country roads from early spring into summer.

Traditionally, bobwhites are found in most of Southeast Nebraska and west along the southern border with Kansas. Quail populations have expanded in recent years and huntable numbers can be found in most areas of the state where suitable habitat exists.

Where to hunt quail

The majority of public hunting opportunities within Nebraska’s quail range occur on State Wildlife Management Areas as well as on private lands enrolled in Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters program. These areas 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.

Grouse hunting

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 Gamebird Hunting Outlook

The 2019-20 Upland Gamebird Hunting Outlook  is based on spring and summer upland-game population surveys, including the July Rural Mail Carrier Surveys (RMCS), 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.


More hunting opportunties

Nebraska truly is an upland hunter’s paradise, with a wide variety of birds and small mammal species available to hunt. Small game hunters can find opportunities for dove, snipe, woodcock, rail, cottontail, jackrabbit, squirrel and more — a variety found in few other states. 

small game hunting guide

Trip planners

Nebraska Game and Parks has put together trip planners for several especially popular game species. The trip planners highlight areas with particularly good access and game populations, and also offer suggestions on lodging and other activities and attractions in the area. Trip planners may be downloaded free of charge. Trip planners for grouse, quail and pheasant are below.
Download grouse trip planner
Download quail trip planner
Download pheasant trip planner

Additional resources

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.