With three of the five North American subspecies, long seasons, and affordable tags, Nebraska is a great state for turkey hunters.
Nebraska lives up to the midwest reputation for incredible turkey opportunity. It offers a unique blend of birds across a predictable landscape, and it might just be the best state to hit if you have yet to cross bagging a Merriam's off your bucket list.
Here's what you need to know.
Nebraska Turkey Population
Like many other states, Nebraska was home to native wild turkeys for many years before the species was extirpated by 1915. Reintroduction efforts throughout a good portion of the 20th century successfully brought this bird back to the Cornhusker State. In 1966, the Nebraska turkey population stood at 3,000 birds. Today, Nebraska boasts approximately 145,000 turkeys within state lines.
Merriam's, Rio Grande, and eastern turkey subspecies all reside in Nebraska as well as many hybrid birds. It's the ultimate variety state when it comes to turkey hunting.
Nebraska Turkey Hunting Seasons & Licenses
Nebraska should be a top destination for turkey hunters who choose a bow as their weapon of choice. Spring archery season kicks off in March and runs all the way through the end of May. Shotgun season isn't too shabby either -- hunters get a full month and a half to run and gun in Nebraska. The fall season for both archery and shotgun lasts four and a half months. Youth hunters also get a bonus week for shotgun hunting ahead of the regular spring season.
Nebraska Turkey Hunting 2022-2023 Season Dates:
- Spring Youth Archery: March 25 - May 31, 2022
- Spring Archery: March 25 - May 31, 2022
- Spring Youth Shotgun: April 9 - May 31, 2022
- Spring Shotgun: April 16 - May 31, 2022
- Fall Youth Archery and Shotgun: Sept. 15, 2022 - Jan. 31, 2023
- Fall Archery and Shotgun: Sept. 15, 2022 - Jan. 31, 2023
For 2022, a spring turkey hunting permit runs residents just $30 and non-residents $128. Youth hunters only pay $8, whether or not they reside in Nebraska. All turkey hunters must also purchase a $25 habitat stamp. Unlike in states with license lotteries, Nebraska permits are relatively easy to get your hands on.
Nebraska offers Appreciate Hunter Education Certificates for novice hunters between the ages of 12 and 29 who have not yet completed a hunter education course. Anyone hunting with one of these certificates must be accompanied at all times by a licensed adult age 19 or older. Individuals can purchase these certificates twice in consecutive years at $5 each, and hunt permits are still required.
Nebraska Turkey Hunting Regulations
Shotguns with shells containing size 2 shot or smaller, long bows, recurve bows, compound bows, crossbows, and even hand thrown spears are all legal hunting methods in Nebraska.
In the spring, hunters can tag one male or bearded bird per permit, with a maximum of three permits per person. In the fall, one permit entitles hunters to take two turkeys of either sex.
Immediately after killing a turkey, hunters must notch the physical permit tag at the correct date, but a mobile option is also available for smartphone users.
Shooting hours run from 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset, and hunters are not required to wear blaze orange in the spring. Use of electronic calls is not allowed.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission recently amended a baiting regulation, making it illegal to hunt turkeys (as well as big game) within 200 yards of a baited area. It defines a baited area as follows:
"An area is be considered baited for 10 days following the complete removal of all bait. A baited area is any location where grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay, minerals (including salt), or any other natural food materials, commercial products containing food materials, or by-products of such materials that may attract big game or turkey. The use of scents alone, normal environmental conditions, standard farming and ranching practices, forest management, wildlife food plantings, orchard management, or similar land management activities do not constitute a baited area."
Turkey hunting regulations continue to evolve, so be sure to stay up to date with current guidelines before heading out.
Nebraska Turkey Hunting Opportunity
While much of turkey country covers private land, Nebraska still offers hunters over 1.2 million acres of sprawling public land. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission offers a Public Access Atlas for finding walk in hunting opportunities throughout the state.
The agency also provides hunters with helpful information for locating areas with the highest concentrations of birds in different areas across the state.
- Southwest Region: In the Southwest Loess Canyon, the Open Fields and Waters Canyon Access Program offers public access at Wapiti, Cedar Valley and Elwood WMA. The Southwest Reservoirs and Republican River Drainages feature almost 40,000 public acres at Harlan, Medicine Creek, Swanson, Red Willow and Enders reservoirs.
- Pine Ridge Region: In this northwest portion of the state, hunters can gain public access at the Nebraska National Forest, Fort Robinson, Gilbert Baker, Ponderosa, Peterson, Metcalf, Bordeaux, and Bighorn WMAs.
- North Central Region: Check out Anderson Bridge, Merritt Reservoir, Schlagel Creek, Borman Bridge, Sherman Reservoir, Pressey, Myrtle Hall, Keller Park, Pine Glen, Fred Thomas, Calamus, and Bobcat WMAs.
Both locals and non-resident hunters have reported success knocking on doors to gain access to private land too. But if you're not up for this or DIYing it on public land, Nebraska is also home to dozens of outfitters that can help you bag a couple birds.
And if you time it right, you can hop over to Kansas -- another awesome state for turkey hunting -- once you've filled your Nebraska tag for more spring gobbler action.
I've bowhunted for birds in Nebraska, and it truly is an awesome place to see a variety of subspecies and hear lots of morning thunder.
Hunting app onX Hunt named Nebraska the best turkey state for archery hunting, and team member Jared L. summarized it well: "When I hear the word 'Nebraska' my mind immediately goes to chasing gobblers in late March or early April with a bow in my hand. The early opening date alone makes it a great destination to chase longbeards. Add to that excellent bird numbers and Nebraska is a must for the avid turkey hunter. The fact they also have reasonably priced tags and you can harvest multiple birds is just icing on the cake."
READ MORE: 5 BEST BOW STABILIZERS FOR HUNTING
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