National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic

Photo of a pheasant in a grassy field.

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Hunting enthusiasts are gearing up for a big gathering in Omaha on March 11-13, and Pheasants Forever representatives are using the time to discuss efforts to promote conservation and hunting.

We caught up with Kelsi Wehrman, who is the Nebraska State Coordinator for Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever. We met her at a wildlife area just south of the community of Ceresco. “We are standing at a property that we’ve recently developed for pheasants and quail,” Wehrman said. “It’s adjacent to the Jack Sinn Wildlife Management Area. We developed this. We seeded it to a native grass and wildflower mix, and it’s all to help benefit pheasants and quail, and also native pollinators.”

Promoting habitat is just one of the many activities Pheasants Forever has going on as an organization around the state. “We focus a lot on habitat, along with new hunter recruitment, youth education, and public access,” Wehrman said. “With habitat, Nebraska is 97% privately-owned. So, we work very closely with partners like the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the USDA, and local farmers and ranchers to develop habitat. We have 36 biologists spread throughout the state, that work one-on-one with farmers and ranchers to look at opportunities to increase habitat on their property.”

Hunter access and recruitment is a big focus for Pheasants Forever. “One of our big priorities is to make sure the hunting tradition stays alive,” Wehrman said. “There are many benefits to just getting oustide. But, we also do quite a bit of work with new hunters, teaching them gun safety, and we do that through a couple of different programs. We have our Youth Mentor Hunt programs, and then we also just started a program called Next Steps, which is another one-on-one mentoring program. We also do a lot of habitat tours and workshops. This is for someone who might not be interested in the hunting aspect of it, but is interested in the conservation side of it.”

Wehrman said Pheasants Forever is always working to find places to hunt. “Nebraska has a walk-in access program called Open Fields and Waters,” Wehrman said. “We partner with the state to try and get the best hunting opportunities on private land. Right now, we have about 375,000 acres that are enrolled in this access program.”Along with all of the work Pheasants Forever is doing to promote hunting and conservation in Nebraska, the group is also getting excited about the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Omaha on March 11-13. “We are expecting at least 25,000 people in Omaha,” Wehrman said. “This is our national convention, and Nebraska hasn’t hosted this event since 2010. I think we have 400 vendors already lined up.” At the event, the Public Lands Pavilion will feature an exciting lineup of speakers and exhibitors. Unique for 2022, all participating public lands exhibitors have agreed to donate 10% of their business’ event proceeds to Nebraska’s signature public access effort, the Open Fields and Waters Program. The goal is to raise $75,000 during National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic to open an additional 10,000 acres of private land for public hunting and recreation for the 2022 season.

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