Best States for Upland Bird Hunting

In no particular order, these states are home to multiple upland bird species and are worth planning a hunt to.

Luckily for wingshooters, the U.S. is filled with multiple species of upland birds to hunt from east to west, and north to south. From the elusive ruffed grouse in Maine’s hardwoods, to bobwhite quail running through the red clay of the south; to ringneck pheasant flooding the plains of South Dakota, to chukar partridge scaling rocky outcroppings in Oregon’s mountains, upland opportunities are abound.

What states have what birds and which should you add to your bucket list? Read on for states that are home to multiple upland bird species and which you should add to your list.

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Why limit yourself to public land when there are millions of acres of private land to explore.

Kansas

The Sunflower state is home to both pheasant hunting and bobwhite quail and is a popular place for upland hunters to travel to each year. Pheasant hunting in Kansas is on the rise as their bird populations have been gradually increasing over the last few seasons. One of the hidden gems in Kansas is the quail hunting. This past season the quail hunting in Kansas was the best it has been in ten years. Bobwhite quail inhabit a majority of the state while you can find scaled quail in the southern more arid part of the state. If you are looking to go on your first quail hunting adventure this state is one that needs to be high on your list. Bird hunters can also find both greater and lesser prairie chickens, but be sure to check state regulations as some parts of the state are closed to prairie chicken hunting due to struggling numbers. 

Kansas is nationally ranked 40th in terms of public land opportunities with only .57% of the state is public land. Their in-state public land initiative is called WIHA – Walk-In Hunting Access and just like most states this public land is hit or miss in terms of offering prime habitat and to hunt the good spots you better set your alarm hours before sunrise. That being said, if you put in the work you will definitely be able to find birds on public land. The private land in Kansas offers prime habitat for bird hunters looking to fill their bag. You can try and get on the phone with landowners or you can utilize Wing It™ to find accessible private land. Overall Kansas offers great opportunities for bird hunters wanting to chase their next adventure. 

Learn more about hunting in Kansas

South Dakota

This state is considered the “Pheasant Capital of America” and rightly so, offering excellent bird hunting and having the largest pheasant population of all states. South Dakota arguably offers the best pheasant hunting in the US. Pheasant hunters can find both wild birds on the hundreds of thousands of acres of public land the state offers, or happily spend time at preserves where they can enjoy home cooked meals and high bird numbers. 

Pheasant hunting in South Dakota is ingrained into the state’s culture, hunters welcomed into pheasant country with open arms and great hospitality. Businesses often have signs that read “Welcome Hunters”. And although the main goal of a bird hunting trip is to harvest birds, the great atmosphere of South Dakota makes the experience that much better. 

South Dakota is also home to sharp tailed grouse in its grasslands and ruffed grouse in the black hills. The state has a vast state run public land program and you can also find birds in the grasses and cattails around the waterfowl production areas. 

You can find pheasants throughout the state although the self proclaimed Pheasant capital of the world is in Redfield, South Dakota where they claim the first pheasants were released in the state. South Dakota to this day still releases pheasants to keep the numbers high for outdoorsmen in the fall, meaning you should have a good chance to find birds almost everywhere you look. One rule to keep in mind is in South Dakota you cannot hunt pheasant until 10:00 am, this serves a dual purpose of not allowing hunters to hunt pheasants in their roosts or right off roost, but it also keeps hunters in town in the morning so they boost the local economies at the local diners and such. 

South Dakota has everything an upland hunter could dream of with the chance to hunt multiple species, and the large pheasant population, every bird hunter needs to think about spending time in South Dakota this fall. 

Learn more about hunting in South Dakota

North Dakota

Like its brother to the south, the Peace Garden State offers excellent upland bird hunting. North Dakota has great pheasant hunting, as well as having opportunities to hunt sharp tailed grouse, sage grouse and Hungarian partridge. 

This vast state might be a long drive but is worth a visit. One advantage of North Dakota is that you can start hunting right at day break whereas in South Dakota you have to wait till 10:00am to start chasing birds. Bird hunters can find great public hunting in the grasses around federal waterfowl production areas and their state wildlife management areas.

An interesting fact about North Dakota is that you do not need permission to hunt private land, although it is recommended. Meaning that if a property is not posted and you see birds on it you can chase those birds, make sure to be respectful. North Dakota offers prime grouse habitat but you do have to make sure you are in the current zone to hunt grouse, in some parts of the state grouse are off limits because they are trying to bring the population back. 

Nebraska

This state can be overlooked by some, but it boasts good bird hunting,  their pheasant populations aren’t great but they aren’t horrible either, numbers are best in the southwest and panhandle region. The eastern part of the state has limited public hunting but as you move more west more public hunting opportunities are available.  As a bonus, hunters can find sharptail grouse and greater prairie chickens in the Sandhills. 

Nebraska is not a target state for bird hunting but the habitat is there and the bird numbers are slowly climbing up offering more opportunities for hunters every year. Especially in the northern part of the state as you get closer to South Dakota you can find great pieces of public land with prime bird habitat. If you don’t want to deal with the crowds, the pressure or the price of hunting in south dakota, Nebraska is a great alternative to getting your dog on some birds and going home with some meat in the cooler. 

Learn more about hunting in Nebraska

Montana

The Big Sky State offers hunters a great place to hunt multiple species of upland birds. On the eastern half hunters can expect to find sharp tailed grouse, Spruce grouse Hungarian partridge, and pheasants. In the central part of the state, you can find sage grouse, and in the western mountain region hunters can find ruffed grouse, spruce grouse and blue grouse.

Maine

This state is iconic in the minds of upland hunters for its ruffed grouse hunting. Remote and rugged, Maine offers solid flush counts for both ruffed grouse and woodcock. The best way to get on to ruffed grouse in Maine is to connect with an outfitter and set up a hunt.

Learn more about hunting in Maine

Wyoming

If you’re looking to hunt sage grouse, you’ll want to head to Wyoming. You only have a short window to hunt them during the season, but they are a bucket list bird. You can also find sharptail grouse, Hungarian partridge, chukar, pheasant and blue grouse in Wyoming. Wyoming is not necessarily known for its bird hunting but that is a good way to avoid other hunters and insure that you will have a more private adventure with your hunting dogs. 

Idaho

If you’re looking for a western adventure that will have you hunting multiple species, then turn to the Gem State. Chukar hunting is the main quarry for the state, while hunters can also find California quail, mountain quail, Hungarian partridge, and ruffed, blue and spruce grouse.

Arizona

This state is home to three different species of quail including mearns quail, gambel’s quail, and scaled quail. Unlike the rolling prairies of the midwest and red clay of the south that bobwhite quail call home, these three desert birds offer quail hunters a unique and challenging hunt. You’ll have to put miles on the boots over rough terrain to find the birds, including through brush such as catclaw and thick cedar bushes.

Iowa

This state is a sleeper state that is often overlooked, but boasts great pheasant numbers for those wanting to bag a long-tailed rooster. Iowa has plenty of public ground, mainly their state wildlife management areas that will provide the best public land hunting options. After driving through Iowa last winter and seeing groups of 15 and 20 pheasants in field after field Iowa is high on our list for next season.

Learn more about hunting in Iowa

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Unlock the Great Outdoors

Why limit yourself to public land when there are millions of acres of private land to explore.

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