The following forecast is based on spring and summer upland-game population surveys, including the April and July Rural Mail Carrier Surveys, and the Northern Bobwhite Whistle Count Survey. In addition, district biologists provided input on conditions on-the-ground that was used to refine the recommendations based on survey results. Staff input included regional weather events that could have impacted populations, general habitat conditions, and impressions of relative abundance. The descriptions below reflect the best available information regarding the relative abundances of small and upland game species among the regions of Nebraska, but cannot be used to predict hunting conditions or local population densities at any single location within a region.
Pheasant populations are beginning to show some recovery from the devastating drought of 2012 and 2013. Favorable conditions during the spring should have improved production. However, field staff report that local and regional severe weather events in the spring might have negatively impacted hatching. Few broods have been observed so far. Replacement nests for those lost to early storms might yet compensate some for those lost. Results of the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey indicated that abundance was up in most regions (see reverse), but not significantly compared to 2013. Based on this survey, the Southwest and Panhandle pheasant regions will offer the best opportunities this fall. Abundance in the Southwest should be similar to 2013, but still lower than experienced prior to the drought. Habitat loss in the eastern part of the state continues to be a concern, particularly east of Highway 81. The overall consensus among field staff is that habitat conditions have improved across most of the state, providing suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitat, and that hunting opportunities will be on par with 2013 or slightly better.
Weather conditions that appeared to negatively affect pheasants occurred too early to negatively impact bobwhite hatch. Further, the early rains appear to have produced abundant insects in parts of the state. Results from the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey and the Bobwhite Whistle Count Survey (see reverse) were higher compared to last year statewide and across all bobwhite regions. Field staff reported seeing good numbers of adult birds in all parts of the bobwhite’s range, as well as a few broods. Although the Southeast and East Central bobwhite regions will offer the best opportunities, particularly in Johnson, Pawnee, and Richardson Counties, good opportunities are likely to be found across the bobwhite’s range in the state.