Wild Turkey

Our wild turkeys are calling

It’s not just that Nebraska has a lot of turkeys – including the highly sought-after Merriams – though it certainly does. Nebraska also offers plentiful and affordable permits, long seasons, public access and $8 permits for youth.

Season dates & regulations

 Spring archery: March 25, 2023 – May 31, 2023
 Spring youth shotgun: April 8, 2023 – May 31, 2023
 Spring shotgun: April 15, 2023 – May 31, 2023
 Fall youth archery and shotgun: Oct. 1, 2023 – Nov. 30, 2023
 Fall archery and shotgun: Oct. 1, 2023 – Nov. 30, 2023

Download Spring 2023 Turkey Regulations

View applications and sale dates

Changes for 2023

Several changes await Nebraska wild turkey hunters in 2023. They can begin purchasing their spring season permits from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission beginning Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. CST and become familiar with the changes before the season opens.

Spring season changes

  • Hunters now may purchase up to two spring permits instead of three.
  • A hunter may harvest no more than one turkey per calendar day during the spring season.
  • This year, 10,000 spring permits are available for sale to nonresident hunters, instead of an unlimited quantity, as in the past.
  • Starting with the spring season, all turkey harvests must be reported via Telecheck.
  • It is illegal to create a baited area on lands owner or controlled by the Commission.

Fall season changes

  • The season is shortened to Oct. 1-Nov. 30.
  • All hunters are limited to one permit.
  • The bag limit for all hunters is lowered to one turkey.

Permit details

Buying a permit: Permits may be bought at Game and Parks permitting offices, online or by mail. In 2015, Nebraska also began offering mobile turkey permits. Note: mobile turkey permits are not currently available, but will become available before the spring 2023 season.

Resident: $30 |  Nonresident: $128  |  Youth: $8
All permits must have a $25 habitat stamp.

.Buy Permit

Where to hunt

Hunters will find good turkey opportunities on more than 1 million acres of publicly accessible land in Nebraska.

Planning your trip

We have put together a couple turkey hunting trip planner options, highlighting areas of the state where hunters will find some of the highest concentrations of turkeys as well as abundant public hunting lands. Also included are suggestion on lodging and other activities and attractions in the area.

View our turkey hunting trip planners

Video resources

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has produced a series of educational turkey hunting videos. Learn more about equipment, techniques, turkey biology and more.

Spring turkey hunting strategies

Learn about spring turkey hunting strategies from set up approach to walking in search of them (run’n’gun).

Spring turkey hunting equipment

A basic introduction to equipment including shotguns, decoys, camouflage and blinds.

Spring turkey hunting calling

Calling turkey information with demonstrations of different turkey noises using slate, box and mouth calls.

A day in the life of spring turkey hunting

Learn more about turkey biology and places to find them.

Additional information

Turkey reports and surveys

Each year, turkey hunter surveys are conducted at the end of the spring and fall seasons. The information obtained is compiled, summarized and provided online. Our surveys go back to 2015.

Find our survey reports

About wild turkey in Nebraska

The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was extirpated from Nebraska by 1915, but thanks to successful reintroduction efforts beginning in the Pine Ridge in the 1950s, turkeys can be found across the state today. Reintroductions included three subspecies (Merriam’s, Rio Grande and Eastern wild turkeys), as well as a hybrid between Merriam’s and a game-farm variety that was found to do well where earlier releases failed. The hybrid birds proliferated and intermingled with the pure strains as populations grew. Turkeys in the panhandle and Niobrara River valley are most consistent in showing plumage characteristics of the Merriam’s subspecies.The wild turkey is the largest upland game bird in North America. Adult Merriam’s toms taken in the fall season average 18 pounds and adult hens average 10 pounds. Hybrid birds can be heavier, weighing more than 25 pounds.

Turkey age and sex identification

Proper identification of the sex of a turkey before the shot is taken is a legal requirement during the spring turkey season, when only males and bearded females may be harvested. Correct reporting of the age and sex of turkeys by hunters after the kill is valuable in managing wild turkeys. Each fall and spring, Game and Parks staff survey a portion of turkey hunters and ask them questions about the hunt. The reported age and sex information is used in making turkey management decisions for the following year.

The head and neck of male birds are scantily feathered compared to the female, and a hen lacks the distinctive fleshy folds of skin that mark the male. Bumps called caruncles, the snood (a protuberance hanging over the beak) and the dewlap (protuberance hanging from the neck) take on either a brilliant, deep red color or a pale blue color during the gobbler’s breeding display. A bristle or filament beard extends from the midline of the gobbler’s upper breast. A few hens also have beards, usually thinner and shorter than male beards, so the presence or absence of a beard is not a reliable indication of a bird’s sex. The breast feathers of a hen are fringed in white or buff, making hens appear frosted or light gray. Juvenile birds of both sexes have small “button” spurs. The males’ spurs continue to grow, becoming pointed, curved and sharp.

The following pictures can be used to help you in determining the age and sex of your turkey. Because of the sequence of feather replacement, the middle feathers of a juvenile bird’s tail are longer than the other tail feathers. Adults’ tail feathers are of equal length.

Adult Tailfeathers

Adult Tailfeathers

Juvenile Tailfeathers

Juvenile Tailfeathers

Spurs, Jakes, or first-year males, have short, rounded spurs usually less than half an inch long. As birds age, spurs grow longer and become more pointed and polished. Adults commonly have spurs at least 1/2 inch to over 1 inch long.spurs

Wing tips of 9th and 10th primaries: Juveniles have sharply pointed and gray wing tips with little wear. Adults have distinctly barred tips. Wing tips on males are often heavily worn.

Juvenile Wing

Juvenile Wing

Adult Wing

Adult Wing

Breast FeathersBreast Feather The breast feathers of a hen are fringed in white or buff, making the bird appear frosted or lighter colored. Male breast feathers are fringed in black, making them appear darker than the female.    

BeardsbeardsMale turkeys and some females (about five percent) have beards. Growth rate is normally 4-5 inches per year, so it is common for juvenile males to have beards less than 6 inches long and for age two and older males to have beards greater than 6 inches in length. Normal wear and tear causes beards to wear and break so beard length varies considerably in older birds and may be less than 6 inches on occasion.