Spring Turkey

Wild Turkeys (Merriam's subspecies of Meleagris gallopavo) in Sheridan County. Hens and strutting tom wild turkeys gather on a ranch northwest of Hay Springs. Haag, April 12, 2017. Copyright NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Justin Haag

Hunters liked what they experienced while pursuing wild turkeys in Nebraska this spring according to an annual survey by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Almost all respondents -- more than 96 percent -- of the 2017 turkey hunter survey said they would hunt Nebraska again based on their experiences.

The survey data underscores many of the reasons Nebraska is the best turkey-hunting destination in the nation, said Jim Douglas, Commission director.

Commission officials often point out that Nebraska enjoys abundant populations of turkeys throughout the state, high hunter success rates, long seasons and ample availability of permits. Multiple permits are available for each hunter and the state features $8 youth permits, considered a bargain.

Nebraska’s turkey population has flourished since the Commission reintroduced the species in the 1950s. Permit sales and hunter success have also climbed, with more than 20,000 birds harvested this spring at a success rate topping 67 percent.

Among non-residents, Colorado and Minnesota topped states survey respondents called home. The non-residents were more likely than residents to prefer turkeys of one subspecies to others, with about 49 percent indicating that they were chasing the Merriam’s subspecies. Those turkeys are most common in the Panhandle and Niobrara River valley, which also lay claim to most of the state’s public land. Nebraska also features birds with characteristics of the eastern and Rio Grande subspecies in other parts of the state.

The largest number of resident hunters who responded live in the state’s three highest populated counties – Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy. Many permit holders traveled to other parts of the state, however, as the most frequently hunted counties were Knox in the northeast, Dawes in the northwest, and centrally located Lincoln and Custer. In addition to previously mentioned factors, respondents listed having family in Nebraska as an important reason to choose the state for turkey hunting.

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The Commission contacted hunters by email in June and the survey ultimately represented about one in seven license holders -- about 65 percent of permit buyers provided an address upon purchase. Hunters also were able to fill out the survey on the Commission’s website. The full report and more information about turkey hunting in Nebraska is online at outdoornebraska.gov/wildturkey.

Nebraska’s spring turkey seasons begin in March and April but hunters do not have to wait that long to bag one of the big birds. The fall season, which allows harvest of both toms and hens, is underway and runs through Jan. 31, 2018.

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