Hunters Expected to Have a Good Deer Season

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Its starting out to be another good deer hunting season in Nebraska, with the firearm season, the second half of the archery season, and the muzzleloader season all set to open during the next few weeks.

Although there have been a few problems, Kit Hams, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commissions big game program manager is anticipating a good year for hunters.

The severe drought over the past four years and problems with disease have taken their toll in some southwest and central Nebraska deer units, but they have had minimal negative effects on eastern populations and hunter success. Hams said the deer herds in the eastern third of the state are stable. In fact, biologists are continuing to aggressively reduce deer numbers, especially along the Platte River and Missouri River corridors.

But, the drought in southwest Nebraska has resulted in population declines in mule deer numbers in the Frenchman and Upper Platte units, and epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has caused significant declines in whitetail herds in the Calamus East, Calamus West, Loup East, Loup West, Keya Paha and Platte units.

Although harvest may be down in some units due to the drought and disease- related losses, Hams expects hunting opportunities and success will be better than during the 50 years prior to 1997.

This year it will be easier than ever before to find a place to hunt in Nebraska because there is more public land available to hunters thanks to the acquisition of several new wildlife management areas in recent years and the CRP-MAP program which has opened some 180,000 acres of private land to public walk-in hunting.

During last years season, hunters took a large number of nice bucks, which really isnt unusual in Nebraska, according to Ben Rutten, the wildlife division supervisor in the Commissions Bassett office. Last year success during the November firearm season was 51 percent, which was slightly lower than the 54 percent success rate recorded in 2002, but Rutten said, “We saw a lot of good bucks at the check stations. We see a lot of good bucks with 4-by-4 or 5-by-5 racks every year.”

While these deer may not be candidates for the record book, a 4-by-4 or 5-by-5 rack is still an impressive trophy that most hunters would be happy to claim. Many of the biologists were also pleased with the weight and condition of the deer they saw at the check stations.

Archers are already having a successful season this year, especially in the eastern part of the state where there are large numbers of both hunters and deer. The archery season is long, and many archers pass up opportunities to take a doe or small buck early in the season in hopes of finding a trophy deer. Nebraskas success rate was 28 percent during the 2003 archery season, which has had a success rate of between 27 and 28 percent during the past ten years.

Darrell Feit, director of the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium at Schramm Park State Recreation Area, said that as of the morning of November 11 they had checked 170 deer at the Aquarium since September 15 when the archery deer season opened. “Weve seen a number of nice bucks, it looks like a good year for antlers. All of the deer weve seen have been fat and in good health.”

Muzzleloader success was also 28 percent last year, which was an increase from 25 percent success the previous year.

Nebraskas 2004 regular firearm deer hunting season will be November 13-21; archery deer hunting season will reopen November 22, the day following the close of the rifle season and continue through December 31, and the muzzleloading deer season will be December 1-31. There are unlimited permits available for the archery and muzzleloader seasons and there are still plenty of permits available in several November firearm season units.

Nebraskas archery and muzzleloader permits allow the bearer to hunt statewide, and the regular firearm season permits are for specific units across the state. Many hunters take advantage of the unique “season choice” permits which allow the bearer to choose when to hunt and what equipment to use to harvest an antlerless deer. They can harvest their deer using archery equipment during the archery season, a muzzleloader during the muzzleloader season, or with a firearm during the November firearm season or the special late firearm season in January. The hunter can use a season choice permit to hunt in any or all of the seasons until the permit is filled. Hunters should remember however that a permit for Season Choice Area 2 is not valid at Harlan County Reservoir.

Both resident and nonresident hunters may purchase deer permits, within permit limits, in any unit where permits remain, but Nebraska law allows a person to possess no more than two Nebraska permits that allow for the taking of antlered deer. Hunters can obtain an unlimited number of antlerless-only deer permits.

Hunters must be at least 12 years old to hunt big game in Nebraska. Resident and nonresident hunters ages 12-15 can purchase a youth deer hunting permit that allows them to hunt deer with archery equipment September 15 - November 12 and November 22 - Dec. 31; with a rifle November 13 - 21; and with a muzzleloader December 1-31. Resident deer hunters must have a deer permit which costs $26 and a valid Nebraska Habitat Stamp which costs $13. Nonresidents must have a nonresident deer permit which sells for $176 and a Habitat Stamp. Hunting permits and Habitat Stamps may be purchased at Commission offices, from some 900 permit vendors across the state, or online from the Commissions internet web site at

All permits are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. They are available online at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission web site at and over the counter at Commission permitting offices at Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium, Alliance, Bassett, Chadron State Park, Fort Robinson State Park, Kearney, Niobrara State Park, Norfolk, North Platte, Omaha, Lincoln, and Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. Resident landowner permits are also available at Commission permitting offices.