Abundant hunting opportunities and access await hunters when they go afield for the opener of the Nebraska pheasant, quail and partridge seasons on Saturday.
Hunters seeking new places to hunt should refer to the 2019-20 Public Access Atlas, which displays nearly a million acres of publicly accessible lands throughout the state. In addition to state and federal lands, hunters will have access to more than 347,000 acres of private land enrolled in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Open Fields and Waters Program — an increase of 30,000 acres from 2018. For those pursuing upland birds in the southwest or panhandle regions, the Stubble Access Guide displays an additional 40,000 acres of tall wheat and milo stubble fields open to public hunting access. Both publications are available at local outdoor vendors, the North Platte Game and Parks office or online at outdoornebraska.gov/publicaccessatlas.
According to the July rural mail carrier survey, this year’s statewide pheasant index was down 14%. However, hunters should still find good bird numbers where suitable habitat exists.
Habitat conditions across the state look great going into the fall, following abundant moisture received earlier this spring and summer. Hunters will find the best pheasant hunting opportunities in the southwest and panhandle regions, which offer good bird numbers and abundant public access.
For bobwhites, this year’s production should make up for some of the population losses incurred from severe winter weather earlier this spring. The Republican, West Platte and Southeast regions should offer the best quail hunting opportunities this fall according to the Spring Whistle Count Survey. The full upland hunting forecast is available at outdoornebraska.gov/upland.
This marks the second year of Nebraska’s Upland Slam, which challenges hunters to try to harvest all four upland bird species in Nebraska – ring-necked pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie-chicken and northern bobwhite. Last year, 140 hunters representing 10 states completed. Those who complete the Slam receive an official certificate and pin, and are entered for a chance to win prizes sponsored by Pheasants and Quail Forever. For more information, visit outdoornebraska.org/uplandslam.
The Take ’Em Hunting campaign is also a great way to bring a new or novice hunter into the fold. Visit outdoornebraska.gov/takeemhunting to get started.
The fall turkey season has been in full gear and continues until Jan. 31, 2020. Hunters may have two permits that allow for the taking of two turkeys per permit of either sex, statewide. There is no minimum age limit to hunt turkeys, so get a kid in the field this year. Permits cost $8 for those 15 and younger.
Deer, upland and waterfowl hunters are reminded that you may encounter turkey hunters while in the field during the various seasons. All hunters need to be cautious when hunting, use common sense and know your target before you pull the trigger or loose an arrow.
Turkey hunters are required to wear 400 square-inches of hunter orange when hunting during the firearm deer season. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. It is unlawful to take or attempt to take any turkey perched in a tree before sunrise.
Archery deer hunters have been in the field statewide since Sept. 1 and have until Dec. 31 to fill their tags of one deer of either sex, except no antlerless deer in the Pine Ridge Unit.
Other open seasons include squirrel (ending Jan. 31, 2020), cottontail and jackrabbit (ending Feb. 29, 2020), grouse (ending Jan. 31, 2020) and crow, which has a split season Oct. 15 through Dec. 15 and Jan. 13 through March 14, 2020. Check the Small Game Hunting guide for other small game seasons and furbearer seasons.
Duck and goose seasons
Duck seasons in our area have started or will start this month.
Be sure to check the 2019-20 Waterfowl Hunting Guide for season dates in the four zones and the high and low plains. You will also need to check the daily bag and possession limits in the guide.
The dark goose season, which includes Canada, Brant and all other goose species except white-fronted and light geese, has begun in the north central unit, going from Oct. 5 to Jan. 17, 2020. The Platte River unit, and other three units all start Oct. 28 and last until Feb. 9, 2020. Daily bag limits are five dark geese per day with a possession limit of 15. For information about hunting dark geese in the other three units along with a map of each unit, review the waterfowl guide.
The white-fronted goose season started statewide Oct. 5 and lasts until Dec. 8. It starts up again Jan. 18 through Feb. 9, 2020. The daily bag limit is two with a possession limit of six.
The light goose regular season started statewide Oct. 5 and goes until Christmas, and again Jan. 18 through Feb. 9, 2020, with a daily bag limit of 50 birds and no possession limit. Using unplugged shotguns and electronic calls is not allowed during the regular light goose season or any other regular waterfowl season.
All the hunting guides for 2019-20 can be found at local sporting goods stores, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission offices or online at outdoornebraska.org. Click the hunting tab to select and download the guide you need. Saving the guides on a smartphone will put them at your fingertips if you need them in the field.
Waterfowl hunters need a current Nebraska Hunting Permit (small game), a Nebraska Habitat Stamp, a Nebraska Waterfowl Stamp, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number and a Federal Duck Stamp, which are all available at the NGPC web site. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset for waterfowl.
Murder mystery at Buffalo Bill Ranch
Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park presents "Who Murdered Murphy?" an original murder mystery.
This will take place at Scout’s Rest Ranch barn on from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Guests are encouraged to wear attire from the late 1800s. Get your reservation in early to play your part and help solve the mystery. Hors d’oeuvres will be served along with tea, coffee and water.
Admission is $15 per guest and limited to the first 30 people to reserve their spot. Participants must be 16 or older to attend. Walk-ins are accepted the night of the event if spots are available. To make your reservation, call the ranch at 308-535-8035. A Nebraska park permit is required for all vehicles, and are available on site. Daily permits cost $6.