Pheasants Forever Nebraska

Late Season Rainwater Basin Hunting

Glossy Ibis on the Rainwater Basin. Photo credit: Amy Schaefer

Practice, practice, practice! As a hunter brand new to the hobby, there is nothing that I have found more valuable than simply going hunting. Although this learning style has led to its fair share of unsuccessful attempts, this ‘on the job training’ has allowed me to delve into the inner workings of the hobby. It has taught me how to scope out new hunting sites, design an action plan, and quick draw a shotgun, more so than any amount of time behind the computer or in the shooting range could do.

As a hunter of both waterfowl and upland game, a resource I have been tapping into a lot this season are public wetland areas. Being located near the Rainwater Basin, playa wetlands are an easy tool to come by. These wind formed depressions scatter the landscape, and are most notable for providing important stopover habitat for migratory birds. Many early mornings have been spent by the water, listening awe-struck to the sound of hundreds of wings whistling overhead. I have learned, however, not to discount these areas for upland game hunting. The upland acres of public wetlands feature some of the most beautiful habitat on the landscape. I oftentimes find myself in the age-old dilemma as I sit in the blind; am I an upland hunter, or waterfowler?
As winter claims its icy hold on the wetlands, pheasant season is reaching it’s prime. These areas offer excellent opportunities for late season pheasant hunting, as birds will often utilize the dense wetland vegetation for winter cover, or quick escape cover.
Additionally, high energy food sources utilized by waterfowl to refuel for the long migration are just as important for upland birds. Seeds from annual plants such as smartweed, barnyard grass, and giant ragweed help build fat reserves in pheasants that are vital for their winter survival.
I have come up dry in many scouting trips, quite literally! Although this may be a discouraging sight to any waterfowler, these temporary playas are actually encouraged in the basins. As the playa dries up, the exposed bare ground is a prime location for those important annuals to grow. While you might not see a puddle duck loafing around in the fall, you might just kick up a pheasant or two!
Next time you are out hunting waterfowl, I encourage you to take a stroll around the upland portions of that wetland, it might just surprise you!
Canada Goose on the Rainwater Basin. Photo credit: Amy Schaefer

About the Author:

Amy joined the team early this year as an intern where she later joined the staff as the Grand Island Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist. Since joining the team Amy has been exploring different species through hunting. Recently she has spent much time on the Rainwater Basin playas hunting both waterfowl and upland game. Her unique partnership position with the Rainwater Basin has her managing portions of the Rainwater Basin and the counties surrounding it. Watch for more to come from Amy!