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Selecting a big game permit

Nebraska's five big-game species: White tailed deer, mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, and pronghorn

Nebraska Game and Parks’ issues permits through a public process. Nebraska’s big game are managed through selective hunting harvest, or species-specific permits for a sex-specific harvest within a geographic location. Permit allocations are based on a location’s ability to support wildlife, as well as social tolerance for that number of animals.

What species are hunted in Nebraska?

Nebraska has five species of big game: white-tailed deer, mule deer, antelope, elk and bighorn sheep. Each species has its own permit, and a hunter must have a permit prior to taking an animal. Some species, such as deer, have many readily available permits; pronghorn and elk have limited numbers of permits issued through an application and drawing process, and bighorn sheep typically only have a single permit offered through a lottery.

Find species permit info

What can I hunt?

Once you’ve decided which species to pursue, take time to make sure the permit you select has the appropriate bag limit that allows you to take the desired animal. Deer permits are the most complex, but both elk and pronghorn permits have male and female (bull/buck/antlerless/doe-fawn) limitations to their permits as well.

Here are common abbreviations and variations in our permits, with a focus on deer:

first table:

WT and MD

Abbreviations for Whitetail (WT) and Mule Deer (MD).  Most of the western half of the state has both whitetail and mule deer.  Varying densities and susceptibility to being harvested often necessitate some permits that limit the harvest of whitetails and mule deer, while some permits allow for the harvest of either species.

AD and AD2

“Any Deer” permits are the most common permits for deer, they are good for any deer, whitetail or mule deer, male or female.  Permits with the “2” suffix are not valid for antlerless mule deer.

BO

“Buck Only” permits are valid only for bucks, a buck is defined as “a deer with antlers 6 inches or more in length.”  Some statewide permits are Buck Only.

AO and AOWT

“Antlerless Only” are our “doe” permits.  They are valid for antlerless deer, which are defined as “a deer with no antlers or antlers less than 6 inches in length.” Some are valid for both WT and MD (AO) and some are valid only for WT (AOWT).

Bonus tags

Many permits across the state have bonus antlerless tags. Some are AO, some are AOWT.

Make sure that you read your permit and tags to see what animals are legal for you to take.

Where can I hunt?

Each of Nebraska’s big game species has specific permits and management units with permit quotas and specific regulations. Each species section has maps detailing management units. Nebraska is 97% privately owned, and landowner permission is required to hunt on private land. For details on public lands, see our Public Access Atlas at OutdoorNebraska.org/publicaccessatlas.

Find the deer, elk and pronghorn management unit maps at OutdoorNebraska.org/huntingseasons.

View management unit maps

When can I hunt?

Each permit has specific season dates that must be followed. Some seasons, like archery, are long and allow a lot of opportunity to be in the field, while others last only a few days.

Find hunting season dates

What method would you like to use?

Each permit has specific methods, such as firearm, archery or muzzleloader, that are allowed to be used for the take of an animal. Some permits allow only one method, while others allow all. Each method (firearm, archery, muzzleloader) has specific minimums and those details may be found in the table below.

Permit Type

Weapon Type

Deer and Antelope
Firearm

  • Rifle – at least 22 caliber delivering at least 900 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards; .357 magnum or .45 Colt

  • Handgun – delivering at least 400 foot-pounds of energy at 50 yards

  • Shotgun – 20 gauge or larger firing a single slug

  • Crossbow – 125-pound minimum draw weight, non-electronic and shoulder-fired

  • Spear – must be thrown by hand

  • Longbow, recurve bow, compound bow

  • Muzzleloading handgun – delivering at least 400 foot-pounds of energy at 50 yards

  • Muzzleloading rifle – 44 caliber or larger

  • Muzzleloading musket – 62 caliber or larger that fires a single slug

Deer and Antelope
Archery

  • Crossbow – 125-pound minimum draw weight, non-electronic and shoulder-fired

  • Spear – must be thrown by hand

  • Longbow, recurve bow, compound bow

Deer and Antelope
Muzzleloader

  • Muzzleloading handgun – delivering at least 400 foot-pounds of energy at 50 yards

  • Muzzleloading rifle – 44 caliber or larger

  • Muzzleloading musket – 62 caliber or larger that fires a single slug

Elk and Bighorn Sheep

  • Rifle – at least 25 caliber delivering at least 1,700 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards

  • Crossbow – 125-pound minimum draw weight, non-electronic and shoulder-fired

  • Spear – must be thrown by hand

  • Longbow, recurve bow, compound bow

  • Muzzleloading rifle – 45 caliber or larger

Notes for All Big Game Permits

  • Semi-automatics may hold no more than six cartridges; fully automatic, full-metal jacket and incendiary bullets are prohibited.

    Slingbows and airbows are not legal for turkey or big game.

  • Arrows and spears must have sharpened hunting head with a blade of at least 7/16-inch radius from the center of the arrow shaft. Arrows and spears containing poison or stupefying chemical or having an explosive tip are prohibited.

  • Magnifying and variable-power scopes are allowed for hunting big game. Scopes capable of using electricity to amplify natural light and those that project a visible light beam to a target are prohibited.

  • Breech-loading (powder or bullet) muzzleloaders are not legal during the muzzleloader season.

  • For more information, contact Game and Parks’ Law Enforcement or Wildlife divisions at 402-471-0641.

How are big game permits distributed?

Some permits are distributed in a drawing; some are available for purchase over the counter. Some permit quotas are unlimited, but many have limited quotas to the number of permits available. Once those limited permits sell out, no more will be available for this hunting season. See OutdoorNebraska.org/drawresults for data and details on our permit drawings.

There also are personal limits to the numbers of permits an individual hunter may have per year:

  • two deer permits that allow the harvest of a buck
  • one elk permit
  • one antelope permit

What are the other requirements?

Hunter education, blaze orange requirements, method-of-take restrictions and mandatory check-in of all harvested big game animals is covered in detail in the regulations sheets for each species at OutdoorNebraska.gov/huntingseasons or in our Big Game Guide.

Read the Guide