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Upland Bird Hunting

Elwood von Kiowa

Grad Assistant
5 Year Member
2021 NW Kansas report from opening weekend....worst of the past 5 years. There are very few birds. Drought continues to plague this area. Cover was half the height of usual. Farmers said they didn't kick up hardly any birds when harvesting. Kansas is good about walk in hunting, but one of the largest plots we hunt (500 acres) was allowed to graze their land. No cover.

I did hear a couple reports though around Bird City where hunters had success. I believe they have more access to ground water there.

Tough hunt. Only 3 birds.
I guess that's why they call it Bird City.

:p

Used to drive through there on the way to Denver
 

Sandhills Husker

Scout Team
5 Year Member
Had a good South Dakota hunt a couple of weeks ago. Good habitat. Some wild birds, but supplemented due to hunting pressure. Saw about 50 hens, and those are wild. The stocked roosters are from Wisconsin, and are good birds. I managed to miss some. Dog had fun. No pheasants in SE Nebraska anymore, so she better have gotten her fill up in SD.
 

CrabHusker

Shut up and color
5 Year Member
2021 NW Kansas report from opening weekend....worst of the past 5 years. There are very few birds. Drought continues to plague this area. Cover was half the height of usual. Farmers said they didn't kick up hardly any birds when harvesting. Kansas is good about walk in hunting, but one of the largest plots we hunt (500 acres) was allowed to graze their land. No cover.

I did hear a couple reports though around Bird City where hunters had success. I believe they have more access to ground water there.

Tough hunt. Only 3 birds.

That's my normal stomping ground when I'm able to get away.

Last year I went was 2018 and had the opposite problem. Cover was so thick, even in December, you had a helluva time getting the birds to flush.

I'll typically hunt from north of Colby to the Atwood area and almost never get skunked or not get a daily limit for that matter.
 

HUSKAHZ

Recruit
10 Year Member
That's my normal stomping ground when I'm able to get away.

Last year I went was 2018 and had the opposite problem. Cover was so thick, even in December, you had a helluva time getting the birds to flush.

I'll typically hunt from north of Colby to the Atwood area and almost never get skunked or not get a daily limit for that matter.
If I go back for one more hunt this year Bird City/Atwood area will be where I hit up. It had just been so convenient in years past to wake up in the morning and basically start hunting the moment we walked out of my buddy's house.

In 2018 the NW corner of Kansas was similar...had cover so thick that in some places we could hardly walk through it. You certainly weren't going to find a downed bird without a dog. They also weren't mowing the road ditches either. There was cover everywhere.
 

HUSKAHZ

Recruit
10 Year Member
Had a good South Dakota hunt a couple of weeks ago. Good habitat. Some wild birds, but supplemented due to hunting pressure. Saw about 50 hens, and those are wild. The stocked roosters are from Wisconsin, and are good birds. I managed to miss some. Dog had fun. No pheasants in SE Nebraska anymore, so she better have gotten her fill up in SD.
Have a couple groups of friends that were up in SD this week. One group did really well, the other struggled a little bit more. They also said they had 40-50 mph winds at least one day hunting this week.
 

Middle-aged_Ball_Coach

Eternal Chairman of the Defense Commission
2 Year Member
SD bird numbers vary by location. The drought conditions meant that landowners were allowed to use CRP ground for either pasture or mowing for alfalfa, but not everybody did that. Places that were heavily dependent on CRP ground that was used will have low numbers. Other areas have good populations. My driving around south-central South Dakota tells me that the numbers weren't much different here than in the past. My brother grabbed a shotgun and popped a rooster from the front yard during Thanksgiving near Gregory, which isn't exactly common.

Check with folks who live in the area where you want to hunt and ask the specific questions about where you're going.

One last thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the private "clubs," etc. that offer guided hunts are loaded with pen-raised birds. The drought doesn't affect them. Most folks that are shooting those birds are in cognitive denial about what they're shooting. General rule: if almost all you're seeing is roosters--and especially if they seem to be walking around waiting for you to come by before flying--they're almost certainly stocked birds. There are lots of hobby farmers who supplement their income by raising pheasants for release on pay-to-hunt ground. It is what it is: no judgment. I just mention it because a lot of folks who hunt those birds then try to convince guys like me that there's no need to use long-range 2-shot on public ground because they're shooting everything up close with 6-shot. If you see a rooster at this time of year, and he's sticking around, he's either pen-raised or lucky.
 

FeelLikeAStranger

How are ya now?
15 Year Member
If anybody knows a reliable spot to find Gray Partridge within a couple of hours of Omaha…either NE or IA…please PM me. I’m not gonna shoot one, just put ‘em on my list for the year.
 

ksuhusker

In a tree somewhere
5 Year Member
Buddy of mine and I went out 2 weeks ago during the arctic blast with -17 windchill. It was miserable but we had a good trip for 2 guys 1 dog and 2 days.
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Woodhead

Recruit
Having spent most of the first 35 years of my life in the Nebraska and/or Colorado, I grew up hunting upland birds. Easy access. Equipment was cheap. All you really needed was a shotgun and a good pair of boots. Public land was usually pretty close to wherever I lived and even in Colorado, I'd find birds most days. Maybe not a limit, but it was rare that I'd walk a field and not flush at least a few birds. Mostly pheasants, but occasionally a quail or two. Taking them home was another question, but even then, that wasn't really always the point. For years I mostly hunted alone, then I got to hunt over a great dog for the first time. He and I were frequent companions on weekends in the fall and winter and he seemed to enjoy the trips as much as I did. I don't think I understood how relaxing upland hunting was for me or how much I really enjoyed it until years later it wasn't an option, or at least hunting actual birds was more of a fantasy than reality.

Fast forward to 2002 and I'm living and working in Tennessee. I'd read story after story growing up about the clouds of quail in Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolina's. I knew pheasants were scarce, but it sounded like I could easily replace one bird for another. I was wrong. Now if you wanted to hunt farm raised birds on a game preserve, you could find and kill birds. That's never been my deal, so I walked a lot. So did my dog. We found a few coveys, but there were few and far between. Next stop was Virginia and again, no wild quail to speak of. Heard a few guys talk ruffed grouse up in the Virginia mountains, so my dog and I spent weekend after weekend looking for birds. Yeah, that was a fantasy too. I walked miles in miles in the Virginia mountains looking for ruffed grouse and found a few tracks, saw a few birds flush wild 50+ yards away, but never fired a shot.

So now I'm in South Carolina. Another upland wasteland and other than my infrequent trips to Western Kansas pheasant hunting, my memories and a few pictures are all that's left. The birdiest dog I've ever know, Chester, has been gone almost eight years now. I replaced him with more Brittany's, who're just as birdy, but are momma's couch dogs these days. They'll kill a dove in the back yard from time to time, but they don't have that intense need to chase a rooster in waist deep Big Blue Stem.

I wish I'd have appreciated my time out west in the corn fields, walking fence lines and slogging through cattails and hearing that rush of beating wings and that whistle when a rooster took to the air. It wasn't all about that, but those moments, mixed with the smell of the fields, the feel of the gun and the sound of my boots covering another mile stays with me.

What are your upland memories?
I remember the feel and sound of my boot when I stepped on some field smell.
 
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