Hunting in Nebraska

Hunting in Nebraska is like diving into a treasure trove of wildlife wonders. From the majestic elk to the sly whitetail deer, from the elusive wild turkey to the feisty pheasant and quail, Nebraska is a haven for hunters.

But here’s the thing, the landscape of hunting is changing. Available hunting lands? They’ve been taking a bit of a nosedive.

But worry not! When you thought you might have to hang up your hunting gear, Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters Program swoops in like a superhero.

So, are you ready to dive into the captivating world of hunting in Nebraska? Trust me; there’s much more to discover with just a click. Let’s go!

Nebraska’s Hunting Seasons

You know how some folks mark their calendars for holiday or football seasons? Well, hunters mark their calendars for hunting seasons in Nebraska – that’s just how they roll!

Here’s a sneak peek into the state’s hunting calendar, courtesy of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC). They’re the fine folks managing all things wildlife in Nebraska.

Antelope HuntingArchery: Mid-August to late December
Muzzleloader: Mid-September to early October
Firearms: Early to late October
Elk HuntingArchery-Bull: Early September to late October
Firearm-Bull: Late September to late October
Early-Antlerless: Early August to late October
Late-Antlerless: Early November to late January
Bighorn Sheep HuntingLate November to late December
Mountain Lion HuntingEarly January to late February
Wild Turkey HuntingFall Season: Mid-September to late January
Spring-General: Late March to late May
Spring-Shotgun: Mid-April to late May
Upland Game HuntingGrouse: Early September to late January
Pheasant & Quail: Late October to early January
Small Game HuntingSquirrel: Early August to late January
Rabbit: Early September to late February

Deer Hunting Season

Archery SeasonEarly September to late December
MuzzleloaderThroughout December
October River Antlerless FirearmEarly to mid-October
November FirearmMid-November
River Antlerless Late FirearmThroughout January
Antlerless Late SeasonEarly to mid-January
Limited LandownerEarly September to mid-January

You may ask, what makes a state a popular hunting destination? Well, it’s a combination of factors: plentiful game, beautiful landscapes, long seasons, and well-managed wildlife.

And hear this: Nebraska has them all! The state has something for every kind of hunter. Now, let’s look at the popular hunts in this sportsman’s paradise.

Whitetail Deer Hunting

Nebraska is a pretty sweet spot when it comes to hunting whitetails. It’s like a hidden gem that’s not so hidden anymore!

What makes it so popular among Nebraska hunters is that you’re bound to bump into these majestic creatures regardless of where you are. Yes, they’re well-distributed and have a thriving population – exciting possibilities, right?

Now, let’s talk size. Nebraska has made a name for itself by producing humongous deer with impressive antlers. I mean, who wouldn’t want a chance at a trophy buck? No one!

That’s one of the reasons it has become such a hot spot for whitetail hunting.

Now, onto the rules of the game. The state regulates deer hunting through different permits – Regular, Landowner, Youth, and Senior, each with its own bag limits. A typical regular firearm or archery permit allows you to harvest one buck, and bonus antlerless permits can also be purchased.

Mule Deer Hunting

Nebraska’s western half is the place for mule deer, especially in the Sandhills. These landscapes offer an awesome backdrop for hunting exploits, with wide-open spaces and rolling hills while you chase down your desired mule deer.

Mule deer are a bit of a different beast compared to their whitetail cousins. They’re larger, have other habits, and their iconic bounding gait is something you’ve gotta see. Plus, those big muley bucks with their wide, forked antlers? Absolutely magnificent!

But mule deer hunting is not all about fun and giggles. In fact, it’s much more strict compared to whitetail deer hunting.

Mule Deer Hunting Regulations

Nebraska has specific mule deer conservation areas where hunters cannot harvest mule deer to help their population. There are also ‘Mule Deer Conservation Areas’ where only antlerless mule deer can be harvested.

For hunting permits, Nebraska offers Regular and Landowner permits. But not all permits are valid for mule deer, and not all are valid statewide. Some are specific to certain units or regions.

Remember, one permit typically means one deer, though additional antlerless permits are often available.

Elk Hunting

Elk hunting in Nebraska is slightly more exclusive than hunting other game species. It’s only open to residents, so if you’re lucky enough to call Nebraska home, you’ve got a shot at this magnificent animal.

Nebraska may not be as well-known for elk hunting as states like Colorado or Montana, but don’t let that fool you. The elk here are impressive, both in size and numbers.

Getting a permit to hunt elk in Nebraska isn’t as straightforward as buying one off the shelf. You’ve got to apply for a draw, and these odds can sometimes be long.

But if Lady Luck is on your side and you draw a bull elk permit, boy oh boy, are you in for a treat!

Wild Turkey Hunting

Nebraska is chock full of turkey; the place is practically crawling with them! We’re talking high turkey populations with a good mix of Eastern, Merriam’s, and Rio Grande subspecies. So if you’ve ever dreamt of a turkey grand slam, look no further than Nebraska!

The cool thing about turkey hunting in Nebraska is that you get to hunt in both spring and fall seasons. And getting a permit is as easy as pie!

You can snag one online, at a permit vendor, or even at a Nebraska GPC office. One thing that’s super cool about Nebraska is that you can get up to three spring and two fall turkey permits, so there’s plenty of opportunity for action.

Remember, once you’ve tagged your turkey, you must check it. You can do it online or at a check station within 48 hours of harvest. And don’t forget, no hunting before sunrise or after sunset.

Pheasant and Quail Hunting

Nebraska is a top-tier destination for pheasant and quail hunting, with good species populations and plenty of public lands to explore.

Pheasant hunting in Nebraska is classic upland game hunting. You’ll find these colorful, long-tailed birds across the state, but the southwest and Sandhills regions are particularly well-known for their pheasant numbers.

As for quail, they’re also found statewide, with the highest numbers in the south and southeast.

Getting a permit for hunting pheasant and quail is pretty straightforward. You’ll need a small game hunt permit and a habitat stamp if you’re over 16.

If you’re a non-resident, there’s also a non-resident two-day hunt permit available which is perfect for a short visit.

Best Hunting Areas

Are you curious about what’s there in Nebraska’s hunting safari? This great state is practically oozing with prime hunting grounds, all set against some seriously stunning landscapes.

Now, let’s take a look at the best hunting areas in the state:

The Pine Ridge

Topping our list is the Pine Ridge area in northwest Nebraska.

This place is like a choose-your-own-adventure book for hunters! It’s home to various game species, including mule deer, whitetail deer, turkeys, and even elk. The rugged, forested terrain makes for a thrilling hunt, whether stalking a big muley or calling in a gobbler.

Public hunting is available on the Nebraska GPC wildlife management areas (WMAs), national forests, and other public lands. Remember, for hunting regulations; you’ll have to follow the rules for the specific unit you’re in, which can be found on the Nebraska GPC’s website.

Southwest Nebraska

Without a doubt, Southwest Nebraska is prime real estate for upland game hunters. It’s known far and wide for its pheasant hunting. Roosters galore, I’m telling ya!

Ring-necked pheasants love the area’s mix of grasslands and croplands, and there are several public access areas where you can chase these colorful birds. Not to mention quail – these little dynamos can also be found across the region.

You’ll need a small game hunting permit and a habitat stamp if you’re over 16, with a daily bag and possession limits applying.

The Platte River Valley

This hunting area is a dream come true for waterfowlers.

The Platte River Valley is like a waterfowl magnet, drawing in massive numbers of ducks and geese during the migration seasons. Thanks to the Platte River being a major flyway, this area is a must-visit for any waterfowl enthusiast. Whether you’re into decoying ducks into your spread or calling in high-flying geese, you’ll have plenty of opportunities here.

Just remember, you’ll need a state and federal waterfowl stamp and your small game hunting permit. Don’t forget to follow the federal and state waterfowl regulations, including daily bag and possession limits!

Nebraska’s Hunting Regulations

Hunting License and Permits

Before heading afield, having all the needed paperwork is important. And that includes your hunting license and, in some cases, the permit for your chosen hunts.

License Types

Adult Hunting$20.00$97.00
Youth Hunting
(ages 15/under)

Permit Types

Deer Permits$38.00$242.00
Antelope Permits$57.00N/A
Elk Permits$178.00N/A
Bighorn Sheep Permits$1,125.00N/A
Wild Turkey Permits$30.00$109.00
Habitat Stamp$25.00$25.00

Hunter Education

Like in many other states, hunter education is a big deal in Nebraska. They don’t want anyone with a firearm or a bow. They want educated, responsible hunters who know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

So, if you were born after January 1, 1977, you must complete a hunter education course before you can buy any hunting permit or habitat stamp. The idea here is to ensure newer hunters have the knowledge they need to be safe and responsible.

Blaze Orange Requirement

Blaze orange, sometimes called hunter orange or safety orange, is a super bright, super visible color that helps hunters see each other and avoid accidents. It’s like a universal “don’t shoot, I’m a human!” signal in the hunting world.

In Nebraska, if you’re hunting deer, antelope, elk, or mountain sheep during any firearm season, you must wear at least 400 square inches of blaze orange material on your head, chest, and back. You also need to wear a blaze orange head cover.

This rule applies to both hunters and archers hunting during firearm season.

Open Fields and Waters (OFW) Program

In a nutshell, the OFW is all about making more land available for public hunting. Nebraska GPC shake hands with private landowners to allow hunters, and sometimes anglers, onto their property. They get a little financial incentive, and in return, hunters get a lot more room to roam.

And, no, it’s not just a few small patches of land here. This program opens up hundreds of thousands of acres across the state. These areas include everything from forests and grasslands to wetlands and crop fields, and you can hunt various species depending on the site.

To find OFW sites, you can check out the Public Access Atlas NGPC puts out annually. It has maps of all the OFW sites and other public hunting lands. They even have an online version you can access from your smartphone.


Hunting in Nebraska is an experience that every outdoor enthusiast shouldn’t miss. It has a vast selection of game species and managed hunting culture to make everyone’s experiences as bountiful as ever.

Remember, nothing tops hunting that is done responsibly. Make sure you only hunt environmentally sustainable animals when you’re in the field.