Nebraska changes turkey hunting regulations

When Nebraska’s archery season opened on March 25, spring turkey hunting in the Midwest was officially underway. The Cornhusker State barely gets a jump on Kansas, where the archery season opens April 5. Zones in Illinois and Iowa soon follow, with both offering opportunities to hunt the first week of April.

If you think Nebraska is one of the best turkey hunting destinations in the country, then we are liked minded. The state is littered with turkeys, and historically as a non-resident you could shoot three birds. The season was so liberal you could even shoot all three the same day. But things have changed, and I learned it the hard way.  

This year, Nebraska has limited non-resident tags to 10,000 and they are sold out. And you can only kill two birds, and they can’t be on the same day. I was planning a trip out there for opening weekend of the regular season, but that trip is now canceled because there are no more tags available. Nebraska is now another line in the spread sheet for buying tags early. 

Those fortunate souls holding a Nebraska tag who braved the first few days of Nebraska’s early opener deserve a tip of the cap. They experienced horrible conditions. Turkey hunting in the snow isn’t a norm. I suppose being able to follow gobbler tracks could be an advantage, but when temperatures are below freezing and the wind is whipping so hard it blows tears out of your eyes, it’s tough to close the deal. 

Ryan Martin, a turkey fanatic from Columbia, Missouri, is one of those hunters who couldn’t wait to get after gobblers this year and traveled to Nebraska to hunt the archery opener. He reported the birds were still in their winter flocks and very little gobbling was heard once the turkeys were on the ground. Probably because their voice boxes were frozen. He said the Toms were strutting and displaying behavior relevant to the pursuit of hens, but they were quiet and really reluctant to come to calls. With warmer temperatures and calmer conditions this week, those Nebraska birds should be more willing to answer.  

It’s questionable that seasons are opening out on the Plains where snow, ice and wind are locking birds down, but in the southern most expanses of the Midwest Region fired up birds can’t be hunted for a couple of more weeks. 

It’s quite a bit different down in Kentucky, where renowned outdoor industry photographer Bill Konway is suffering through the pain of having to watch gobblers dance in the field outside his window while waiting for the regular season to kickoff April 15. Konway said down in his holler, the birds are amped up and ready to go. His yard birds are gobbling so hard they rattle the windows some mornings. This weekend, April 1 and 2, the kids in Kentucky should be in for an excellent youth hunt.

If you’re in a state with an opening day still a couple of weeks away, what you can do right now is scout. Scouting maybe most important when chasing turkeys. These birds don’t typically wander far. If you can get out a few mornings before work to go listen for gobblers, you’re going to be miles ahead come opening day. Take a drive during your lunch hour to glass fields. If a bird is strutting out there prior to the season opening, you can bet he won’t be too far off coming opening morning. 

As the seasons begin to open in states across the Midwest, keep in mind it’s good to be aggressive early. On opening morning, move tight to roost trees. Call to the gobblers like they haven’t had loving in 10 months. As the seasons progress, birds become more wary and better educated. But even the old boss gobblers have forgotten by now that some of those sweet hen sounds come from predators looking to lay the hammer down on them. As turkey hunting legend Ray Eye likes to say, “calling is everything.” 

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler

Pic: Nebraska has sold out of turkey tags and changed hunting regulations.  

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