Turkey Hunting in Nebraska

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  • A
  • 145,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Merriam's, Rios, Easterns, hybrids

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 40,000 (estimated)

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • Varies (check regulations)

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • Varies (check regulations)

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

Nebraska is just a little bit different (in a good way) than almost anywhere else you might chase turkeys.

We had maybe a half-dozen guys in camp. Most everybody had killed a couple birds, and one guy had three, all legal with permits. 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."

Long pause and big grins among the table of farmers ... then this from one of those gentlemen: "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 travel for and live to hunt.

Where to Hunt

In 1990, fewer than 5,000 spring birds were shot in Nebraska. In 2010, that number increased five-fold to 25,000 birds, the peak of exploding turkey populations in the state. In 2014, 18,960 turkeys were tagged. Last season, in 2021, hunters took 20,782 birds, even though some sources say the turkey population isn't what it was, say, a decade ago.

Though the state is mostly private, it's still possible to knock on doors and get hunting access here. Quite a few landowners want turkeys gone (as evidenced by my lead story). And late season can be surprisingly great, with gobblers willing to answer a call, and work to your position.

Seasons are long (late March to late May), 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 Sandhills 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.

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 turkey season, too.

New for 2022

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission amended a regulation making it illegal to hunt turkeys within 200 yards of a baited area.

An area is be considered baited for 10 days following the complete removal of all bait. By state definition, 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.

Turkey Hunting in Nebraska (c) Tes Randle Jolly photo

– Steve Hickoff

Go here for more Realtree turkey hunting.