Turkey Hunting in Nebraska

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  • A
  • 145,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Merriam's, Rios, Easterns and Hybrids

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 40,000 (estimated)

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • $58

    Wild turkey permit, habitat stamp and annual hunting permit.

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • $167

    Wild turkey permit, habitat stamp and two-day hunting permit. An annual non-resident hunting permit is $81.

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

Turkey hunting in Nebraska often goes like this . . .

We had maybe a half-dozen guys in camp. Most everybody had killed a couple turkeys, and one guy had three, all legal. We walked into a local diner, giddy with success. Some of the local farmers saw us, struck up a conversation.

"You boys get any birds?"

"Yes sir, we did."

"Do you want some more?"

Laughter all around. You see, those hard-working guys, with plenty of land to tend, and from which they make their livings, don't care all that much for the gamebirds we love and travel for and live to hunt.

Nebraska turkey hunting is tough to beat.

With a turkey population that's exploded over the last decade, the 145,000-bird estimate seems conservative if you've ever been here. And chew on this stat: In 1990, fewer than 5,000 spring birds were shot in Nebraska; in 2010, that number increased five-fold to 25,000 birds. In 2014, 18,960 turkeys were tagged. (Updated kill data isn't available as of this post.)

The word is out. Seasons are long (almost seven weeks), liberal (you can take up to three birds in spring, but you have to buy a new permit for each one), and everything is over-the-counter (or online).

You'll find Merriam's in the West (the Pine Ridge complex and Sand Hills hold birds and public access), and hybrids (usually some mix of Merriam's, Rio and Eastern) in much of the rest of the state, with some pure Easterns on the state's far “right” side.

Nebraska is mostly private, but there is good public land to be found. Head west to the Pine Ridge complex, where you can hunt Merriam's in the Nebraska National Forest and numerous Wildlife Management Areas. Elsewhere in Nebraska, look to the river bottoms. Those waterways and the associated “breaks” habitat, where forest and prairie intertwine, are where the turkeys live.

Check out the Niobrara, North Platte, South Platte, Republican, Loup and Elkhorn River systems. The Missouri River is excellent turkey country too. The Central Loess Hills, with its pretty cedar habitat, is also good.

The state has a generous fall and winter turkey season, too.

Here's how we did in Nebraska in 2016.

Turkey Hunting in Nebraska (c) Tes Randle Jolly photo

Fun Fact: Though the state is mostly private, it's still possible to knock on doors and get hunting access here (see my lead story). There are that many turkeys, and quite a few landowners want them gone. Late season can be great, with gobblers willing to answer a call, and work to your position.

– Steve Hickoff

Nebraska Turkey Hunting Regulations

Go here for more Realtree turkey hunting.