Several significant changes to the 2022 Nebraska deer seasons were approved by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in March and April. The goals of the changes are to maintain resident access to hunting permits and address declining mule deer populations in some areas of the state.
Changes to permit purchase dates
Residents will be able to purchase limited deer permits two weeks before nonresidents, starting July 12, 2022. Nonresident sales will begin July 25, 2022.
Limited pronghorn permits will be available to residents beginning July 13, with nonresident sales beginning July 24 in 2022.
All leftover drawing permits will begin to go on sale on Aug. 1, 2022.
Historically, Game and Parks separated resident and nonresident purchase dates prior to 2007. Current state statute mandates Game and Parks give preference in permit purchasing to residents.Buy Your Permit
November Firearm and Antlerless Only changes
November firearm permits were reduced by 1,700 from 2021 to 44,475 permits. Antlerless Only were reduced by 800 to 31,300 permits. This change was to address declining mule deer populations across the state. We evaluate our permit quotas and bag limits annually and amend where necessary to address local population issues and needs to accomplish harvest goals.
Mule deer populations have been declining in Nebraska due to habitat changes, Meningeal Brainworm and likely Chronic Wasting Disease. Short term declines are related to increased harvest in some areas due to depredation. White-tailed deer also have seen declines in some areas due to the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease outbreak in fall 2021 and due to increase harvest in other areas to address depredation.
Mule deer restrictions and changes
Upper Platte Unit
A new restriction on all permits prohibits the harvest of antlerless mule deer on public land north of Highway 88 in the Upper Platte Unit. This public land restriction is similar to the one that has been used in the Pine Ridge the past several years to protect mule deer herds on large blocks of public land from overharvest.
Similar to the Pine Ridge, no antlerless mule deer harvest will be allowed on state and federal owned lands or The Nature Conservancy and PRBE owned lands north of Highway 88 in the Wildcat Hills. The restriction does not apply to Open Fields and Waters properties.
The Pine Ridge is being added to the list of “Mule Deer Conservation Area” units, which includes Frenchman, Platte, Buffalo and Republican deer units. With this designation, the Statewide Muzzleloader and Restricted Statewide Buck permits will no longer be valid for mule deer in the Pine Ridge unit.
It also means the Pine Ridge MDCA permit — which is valid for any deer, except antlerless mule deer — is valid for both the November Firearm and December Muzzleloader Seasons. Muzzleloaders wishing to hunt mule deer in the Pine Ridge will need the Pine Ridge MDCA permit to do so.
The Pine Ridge MDCA permit quota is set at 1,200; 85 percent of those will be allocated to residents and 15 percent to nonresidents, which is similar to the Platte at 15% and Frenchman at 8%. These quotas were set to ensure nonresident have opportunity to buy this high-demand permit; without allocations, the permit would sell out prior to the nonresident purchasing period.
There has always been high demand for permits that allow the harvest of a mule deer buck in the Pine Ridge, but this has been exacerbated by our reductions in the “Any Deer” permit over the past 10 years, going from 3,000 in 2010 and gradually decreasing to 1,200 in 2019. During that same time, the number of nonresidents buying the permit has remained relatively steady, declining from about 1,000 to 700, while residents have declined by 80%, from about 2,000 to 400. However, as recently as 2017, more than 1,300 resident permits sold, indicating resident demand exists, but the permit likely sold out before residents had an opportunity to purchase one in recent years.
As permits have declined in Pine Ridge Unit during the past 10 years, use of Statewide Muzzleloader and Restricted Statewide Buck have increased, making the MDCA designation and associated restrictions necessary to manage mule deer harvest.
Permits that allow for the harvest of a mule deer buck have been reduced by 1,500 in 2022 to address declining herds. There also has been a reduction or shift of permits valid for antlerless mule deer, as well as bag limit changes.
Either sex or buck-only permit changes
A sales quota of 15,000 Either Sex or Buck Only (ES/BO) permits has been set for nonresidents. This includes Archery, Muzzleloader and November firearm permits. Once 15,000 permits that allow the harvest of a buck is met, no more either sex or buck only permits will be sold to nonresidents. All landowner and youth permits are exempted from this quota. Nonresident sales of ES/BO permits has increased 50% over the past 10 years; the cap will ensure sales do not increase beyond the levels of 2020 and 2021.
Within that quota, Nonresident Statewide Archery is capped at 5,000 permits and Nonresident Statewide Muzzleloader is capped at 2,000 to ensure permit sales do not shift drastically from previous years. Both quotas are equivalent to 2021 sales numbers, when 5,032 and 2,018 sold respectively.
Resident archery and muzzleloader permits are not affected and still have an “unlimited” quota.
The caps on ES/BO permits that previously had “unlimited” permit quotas are aimed at maintaining the current distribution of hunters throughout the seasons, including Archery, Muzzleloader, Statewide Whitetail Buck and Restricted Statewide Buck.
Statewide permit changes
The Statewide Whitetail Buck is capped at 8,000 permits. Historically, about 10,000 Statewide Whitetail Buck permits have sold, with about 45 percent of permits selling after the Wednesday prior to the November Firearm season and after permits have sold out in many management units. These additional sales have made managing whitetail buck harvest difficult in any unit, but particularly in the Elkhorn, Wahoo, Blue Northwest and Blue Southeast units in southeastern Nebraska, where 57 percent of the harvest on the Statewide Whitetail Buck permit occurs.
Limits to the Restricted Statewide Buck permit will help ensure that harvest does not increase or shift to other units, since that permit is no longer valid in the Pine Ridge Unit, where we are working to reduce mule deer buck harvest to address declining mule deer populations.
Restricted Statewide Buck Only has been limited to 1,000, a reduction of about 250 permits. Changes to the Pine Ridge Unit limits the area where this permit can be used.
About the decision-making process
Read more about how these decisions were made based on landowner surveys, population sizes and other issues in our Big Game Recommendations booklet.Read Big Game Recommendations
Deer Hunting in Nebraska
Learn more about deer hunting in Nebraska, including our annual harvest reports, units, application process and more.Learn more