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Nebraska Pheasant Hunting and the Changing Face of Agriculture


The success of the ring-necked pheasant parallels the ups and downs of Nebraska agriculture, with the years between 1958 and 1966 being the heyday of Nebraska pheasant hunting. During those years, pheasant hunting seasons were the longest in the country, bag limits were ample, and, for a time, it was possible to shoot hens in some areas. The years of plentiful pheasants were also the years of the Soil Bank, a land-idling program designed to decrease huge grain surpluses by cutting production. Some lost and disappearing forms of habitat, a result of the post-war changes in farming practices that were meant to increase production, were rapidly restored--and Nebraska pheasant hunting entered a boom era. By the early 1960s, the Soil Bank in Nebraska had created 876,000 acres of the kind of prime pheasant habitat often absent on cultivated land, and many non-resident hunters came to Nebraska for the spectacular hunting opportunities, boosting the local economies.

However, the boom was short-lived, and in 1966 the retired Soil Bank acres began to be returned to cultivation, and then in 969 all the contracts had ended. In addition, by this time, not only were the Soil Bank acres gone, along with their ideal habitat, but the farming practices on the farmed acres had undergone yet another change. Larger fields, old farmsteads eliminated—all to create more farmland, and, most importantly, the center pivot, which required the removal of shelter belts and brushy thickets, combined to destroy pheasant habitat. Once again, pheasant numbers fell. During the Soil Bank years from 1960 to 1967, an average of 12.5 pheasants were counted every 100 miles; twenty years later the number was down to 2.2. Nebraska pheasant hunting, following the trend of agricultural practices, declined.

The 1985 Farm Bill created another version of the Soil Bank program, the Conservation Reserve Program, which was designed to shrink grain surpluses brought about by former farming policies and aid conservation. Counties with a high degree of participation in the CRP showed significant increases in pheasant numbers. Rural Mail Carrier surveys indicated a doubling of pheasant numbers, but the increase in the pheasant population and other wildlife was less than expected. In areas where the CRP had increased the number of pheasants, Nebraska pheasant hunting underwent something of a revival, but it has not returned to the heights of the glory days. Pheasant hunting is still an important economic factor in the state, but with fewer pheasants, fewer hunters visit Nebraska. In 1996 about 131,000 hunters, both in and out-of state, spent 54 million dollars. Five years later hunter numbers were down to 100,000, a decrease of 24%, with 36 million dollars spent.

It’s clear Nebraska pheasant hunting will continue to depend on farm programs such as the CRP to maintain pheasant habitat and ensure the future of the sport. Private efforts by groups such as Pheasants Forever can help enormously, but farming methods are the key to what happens with the vast majority of acres. Ultimately the future of wildlife habitat and the Nebraska pheasant hunting will depend, as always, on what happens in Washington.

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Whitman County Pheasant Hunting News

Weekly hunting and fishing report - The Spokesman Review

The Spokesman Review

Weekly hunting and fishing report
The Spokesman Review
... of finding a better pheasant population than we were experiencing around Spokane. We probably could have shot as many in the Palouse, but I nevertheless considered the trip a success because my young Brittany had a good number of points (mostly ...

and more »


Tough times for upland birds - The Spokesman Review

The Spokesman Review

Tough times for upland birds
The Spokesman Review
Put-and-take hunting at pheasant release sites on state and federal lands seem to be emphasized in prospect reports by the Fish and Wildlife Department even though the agency has been gradually reducing the number of roosters released for hunters ...


Pheasants losing ground in Eastern Washington - The Columbian

The Columbian

Pheasants losing ground in Eastern Washington
The Columbian
However, put-and-take hunting on release sites owned by the state or federal governments is becoming a bigger part of the pheasant picture in Eastern Washington. Thousands of roosters will be released this fall in several eastside ... Pheasants will be ...

and more »


Eastern Washington hunting prospects bright - The Spokesman Review

The Spokesman Review

Eastern Washington hunting prospects bright
The Spokesman Review
Pheasant crow counts (number of males during spring breeding season) were down this year 7 percent below the four-year average across Spokane, Lincoln, Columbia, Garfield, Walla Walla and Whitman counties. However, counts on the Parvin and St.

and more »


Cooking your game: Pheasant fajita tacos, a southwestern take on an Inland ... - The Spokesman Review

Cooking your game: Pheasant fajita tacos, a southwestern take on an Inland ...
The Spokesman Review
When it comes to table fare, a lot of hunters would rank the taste of pheasant within their top three, perhaps behind chukar and grouse. The hunt itself – a stroll through tall grass and brush enjoyed by young and old – creates its own unique memories ...