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turkey decoy

Spring turkey hunter Jacob Chandler of Omaha sets up decoys near a blind while bow hunting at Chadron State Park in Dawes County last year.

Nebraska’s spring wild turkey hunting is tough to beat. We Nebraskans, as well as our nonresident visitors, have plenty of reasons to take to the woods to call in a bearded bird this year. Here are some of them.

Turkeys in every county: Wild turkeys thrive in all 93 Nebraska counties where there is suitable habitat. Some counties, such as Lincoln County, even rank within the top 10 counties in the nation for wild turkey abundance.

Variety of subspecies: In Nebraska, you never know what coloration of feathers will be on your turkey or what subspecies you might shoot. Jeff Lusk, Game and Parks’ upland game program manager, says that because of the vagaries of genetic inheritance and the subspecies involved in the hybridization, the color of tail feathers can resemble the appearance of Eastern, Rio Grande and Merriam’s subspecies. Lusk says most wild turkey reintroductions in Nebraska were of intentionally hybridized turkeys (Merriam’s crossed with game farm Easterns), though there were releases of pure Merriam’s, Rio Grandes and a few Easterns. Lusk adds that given current knowledge, Nebraska’s turkeys are considered to be hybrids.

Accessible lands: More than 500,000 acres of public and public-access lands are open to hunt wild turkeys. 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.

Long seasons: Nebraska’s spring wild turkey seasons are among the longest around. Archery season opened March 25. Youth shotgun season opens April 7 and the regular shotgun season begins April 14. All seasons close May 31.

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

Easy permits to obtain and carry: Turkey permits can be purchased and printed out from Game and Parks’ website, over the counter at agency permitting offices or by mail. Turkey permits also can be bought and displayed via a mobile app.

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.

High hunter satisfaction and success rates: In the 2017 spring turkey hunter survey, 98 percent of resident and 96 percent of nonresident hunters indicated they would hunt Nebraska again based on their experiences. Overall harvest success was just over 64 percent last spring, above Game and Parks’ strategic planned harvest goal of 50 percent.

So, why not purchase a 2018 spring turkey permit and habitat stamp to see all the Cornhusker State has to offer? For more reasons to hunt Nebraska, ready my blog, In the Wild, at OutdoorNebraska.org.

Good hunting!

Greg Wagner is a public information officer in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Communications Division. Contact him at greg.wagner@nebraska.gov.

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