Wild turkey hunting
Our wild turkeys are calling
Nebraska is a great turkey hunting destination. Since their reintroduction in the Pine Ridge in 1959, the wild turkey has been wildly successful in Nebraska. Just 28 Merriam’s were released at the time, and their numbers increased quickly and steadily. Reintroductions and transplants over the following decades led turkeys to establish across the state.
Hybrid Merriams — a cross with a game-farm variety — has thrived in Nebraska’s open landscape. It’s success means most turkeys are a mix of two or more breeds. Turkeys in the panhandle and Niobrara River valley are most consistent in showing plumage characteristics of the Merriam’s subspecies.
Recent hunting season changes reflect changing wild population numbers, but hunters in pursuit of turkey can still find opportunity, affordable permits and public access.
Changes for 2023
Several changes await Nebraska wild turkey hunters in 2023. They changes address a population decline over the past 10 years in Nebraska. Download Spring 2023 turkey regulations.
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. (SOLD OUT)
- Starting with the spring season, all turkey harvests must be reported via Telecheck.
Beginning in the spring season of 2023, it is also illegal to create a baited area on lands owned 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.
Where to Hunt
Hunters will find good turkey opportunities on more than 1 million acres of publicly accessible land in Nebraska.
Plan 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.
Identifying wild turkeys
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 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.
Male 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.
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.
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.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has produced a series of educational turkey hunting videos. Learn more about equipment, techniques, turkey biology and more.
Reports & surveys
Each year, turkey hunter surveys are conducted at the end of the spring and fall seasons. The information obtained is summarized online. Our surveys go back to 2015.
Purchase hunting, big game and turkey permits, as well as supertags and combo lotteries.
The Nebraska Telecheck Program allows hunters to check deer or antelope by telephone or online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, other than during the nine-day firearm season.
Rules, orders & regulations
Find the current orders, rules and regulations for Nebraska's fish, game and park spaces.