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10 Reasons to Hunt Turkeys in Nebraska this Spring!

Nebraska’s spring wild turkey hunting is tough to beat.

It really is.

Trust me, I know from firsthand experience!

Your blogger displays an adult male wild turkey harvested during a spring shotgun wild turkey hunting season in rural Douglas County, NE. Photo by T. Andre Shousha of Waterloo, NE.

And, we Nebraskans as well as our nonresident visitors have plenty of reasons, ten at least, to take to the woods to call in a bearded bird this year.

An adult male wild turkey in a cornfield comes to the hen yelp of a slate turkey call during a spring shotgun wild turkey hunting season in rural Washington County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

 1. All counties have turkeys. Wild turkeys thrive in all 93 Nebraska counties where there is suitable habitat. Interestingly, some counties in the state even rank within the top 10 counties in the nation for wild turkey abundance.

A wild tom turkey struts in a grassy field in rural Douglas County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

 2. Variety of subspecies. Making Nebraska an even more intriguing destination for spring wild turkey hunting is the fact that you never know what coloration of feathers will be on your bird or what turkey subspecies you might shoot! Relative to biology, Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager at Game and Parks, says because of the vagaries of genetic inheritance and the subspecies involved in the hybridization, the gradation of coloration of tail feathers can resemble the appearance of Eastern, Rio Grande, and Merriam’s subspecies. Lusk explains the majority of wild turkey re-introductions in Nebraska were of intentionally hybridized turkeys (Merriam’s crossed with game farm Eastern’s). Though, he adds, there were releases of pure Merriam’s, Rio Grande’s and a few Eastern’s. Lusk adds given current knowledge, Nebraska’s turkeys are considered to be hybrids. Game and Parks is presently undertaking a study of the genetics of wild turkeys to determine the makeup of the turkey population across the state.

The brilliant back and body feathers of an adult male wild turkey, mostly likely a hybrid, shown up close. Research is underway in Nebraska to check the DNA of various wild turkeys harvested by hunters to determine subspecies. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

 3. Accessible lands. Nearly 500,000 acres of public and public-access lands are open to hunt wild turkeys in Nebraska. Although there are good opportunities on public areas to harvest gobblers, hunters should not be afraid to knock on doors to gain access to access private land as well. There are lots of turkeys and many landowners that don’t mind turkey hunters.

 4. Long seasons. Nebraska’s spring wild turkey seasons are among the longest around. Archery/crossbow season opens March 25. Youth shotgun season opens April 8 and the regular shotgun season begins April 15. All seasons close May 31.

 5. Affordable permits, especially for youth. At $30 for residents and $109 for nonresidents, permits remain affordable. Also, youth age 15 and under can buy a permit for just $8. For most hunters, a current habitat stamp is also required.

 6. Easy permits to obtain and carry. Turkey permits may be purchased and printed out on the Game and Parks Commission’s website, across the counter at agency permitting offices, or by mail. Turkey permits also may be bought and displayed via a mobile app.

 7. Three statewide permits. Spring wild turkey hunters in Nebraska are allowed up to three statewide permits, each good for either one male or bearded bird.

8. High success and hunter satisfaction. Recent surveys indicate turkey hunters in Nebraska have high success (65%) and a high satisfaction rate (90%).

Jim Druliner of Omaha, NE displays a large wild tom turkey he harvested in rural Dawson County, NE during the 2017 Spring Archery/Crossbow Wild Turkey Hunting Season. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

 9. Go northwest, but don’t overlook southwestern and central Nebraska. The northwestern region of the state provides opportunities to hunt the highly-sought after Merriam’s and Merriam’s hybrid subspecies in beautiful, rugged terrain with large tracts of public lands to hunt and state park lodging available. For population densities, the latest survey data indicates that southwestern and central Nebraska have the highest turkey abundance regionally.

Wild turkeys in the scenic Pine Ridge area of northwestern Nebraska. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

 10. Nebraska’s turkey hunting outlook is good. Based on currently available rural mail carrier survey data from October 2016, turkey numbers were slightly above the five- and 10-year means on a statewide basis. Spring 2016 harvest was 11 percent higher than in Spring 2015.

So, why not purchase a 2017 spring turkey permit and habitat stamp to get in on the exciting action here in the Cornhusker State!

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About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media sites, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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