Nebraska is a great state for deer hunting. Not only are there two species present, both whitetail and mule deer, but the flat, prairie terrain presents unique challenges that make the experience particularly rewarding. Thanks to competent management, Nebraska hunters have rated their state 3.8 on a five-point scale, and Nebraska received a B rating from Realtree for deer hunting.
A 2020 survey from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission found that 61 percent of respondents managed to harvest at least one deer during the season. If you want to be one of them, make sure you know the ins and outs of the Nebraska season and its required permits.
Table of Contents
2023 Season Dates
Open Season Dates
|Archery||September 1 – December 31, 2023|
|Muzzleloader||December 1-31, 2023|
|Firearm||November 11-19, 2023|
Special Season Dates
|Special Landowner||Any||November 4, 2023 -November 6, 2023||Permits are available for residents owning or leasing at least 80 acres, or 320 acres for non-residents|
|Antlerless-Only Season Choice||Based on open season||September 1, 2023 -January 15, 2024||Permit can be used to harvest antlerless deer* during open season of choice|
|Limited Landowner||Any||September 1, 2023 -January 15, 2024||Permits are available for residents owning or leasing at least 80 acres, or 320 acres for non-residents|
|Late Antlerless-Only Firearm||Firearm||January 1, 2024 -January 15, 2024||Only antlerless deer may be harvested|
Bag Limits, Permits and Costs
In Nebraska, both residents and non-residents can purchase a range of permits that allow for the harvest of different kinds of deer during different parts of the season. These permits usually allow for the harvest of a single deer, so you have to purchase as many permits as deer you want to take. You are limited to two permits for bucks in any case, but depending on the season and area, you may be able to get unlimited permits for antlerless deer. This is the case during the statewide archery season, for instance.
However, because the permits can be so specific, it’s best to consult the following table:
|Permit Name||Applicable Seasons||Permits Available||Bag Limit||Resident Cost||Non-Resident Cost|
|Statewide Archery||Archery||Residents: Unlimited|
|1 antlerless deer||$37||$285|
|Statewide Muzzleloader||Muzzleloader||Residents: Unlimited|
|1 antlerless deer||$37||$285|
|Statewide Whitetail Buck||Archery, Muzzeloader or Firearm||8,000||1 whitetail buck*||$88||$707|
|Restricted Statewide Buck||Firearm||1,000||1 buck||$128||$698|
|Statewide Buck||Firearm||Residents: 70|
You may notice that a permit for antlerless deer during firearm season is not included. That’s because these permits aren’t statewide but rather issued by individual management units. Each of the 18 units sells a different amount of permits each year, each with their own bag limits.
For example, the Sandhills unit has 1,500 permits available, each with a bag limit of one antlerless deer and two more specifically whitetail antlerless deer. The unit also has 500 permits that allow for one whitetail deer including a buck and two antlerless whitetail deer. Confusing? If you want to hunt firearm season, it’s best to check the official Nebraska hunting guide.
When Can You Buy Permits?
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission starts selling deer permits in the summer and continues selling them through the season until they run out, or just until the end of the season in the case of unlimited permits. The sale for unlimited deer permits begins on July 10, 2023 for both residents and non-residents. Residents may begin buying limited permits on July 11. Non-residents may begin buying limited permits on July 24.
To give you an idea, in 2021, most of the firearm permits for specific management units sold out at the end of October or beginning of November, a couple of weeks before the season. The earliest to sell out was the Sandhills unit, which was out of permits on October 14.
You can purchase permits at OutdoorNebraska.gov, by mail or in person at certain Game and Parks offices.
A permit may not be all you need to hunt deer in Nebraska. If you are aged 12-29, you also need a certificate of completion for a hunter education course, for firearm hunting during firearm season and bowhunting during archery season.
If you haven’t completed one of these courses, you can get an Apprentice Hunter Education Exemption Certificate, but then you must be accompanied by someone 19 or older. If the person accompanying you is aged 19-29, then they must have proof of passing a hunter education course.
When hunting deer on public land, you must get a Nebraska Habitat Stamp from Nebraska Game and Parks. The only exceptions are hunters younger than 16 and hunters with veteran or senior permits.
Proof of Residency
Additionally, to get your permit, you’ll need to show proof of residency to pay the residency price and have access to the resident permit sale period. A driver’s license is usually enough.
What Weapons Can You Hunt With in Nebraska?
Roughly 26 percent of Nebraska deer hunts prefer bowhunting. Many archery weapons are allowed including longbows, recurve bows, compound bows, crossbows and even spears.
Crossbows must have a draw weight of at least 125 pounds while vertical bows must have a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds. Broadheads are required with a minimum radius of 7/16 inches.
Firearms are the most popular weapon for deer hunting in Nebraska with 66 percent of hunters preferring them. Firearms are subject to the following regulations:
- Rifles must be at least .22 caliber and produce 900 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards. .357 Magnums and .45 Colts are also allowed.
- Handguns must produce 400 foot-pounds of energy at 50 yards.
- Shotguns must be at least 20 gauge. Buckshot is banned.
- Semi-automatic firearms can’t hold more than six rounds.
- Full metal jackets, incendiary bullets and automatic firearms are banned.
Only six percent of hunters prefer muzzleloaders, but they’re a passionate and dedicated group. Muzzleloading rifles have to be at least .44 caliber, muskets at least .62 caliber. Muzzleloading handguns have to produce at least 400 foot-pounds of energy at 50 yards.
What Types of Deer Are Popular in Nebraska?
Two species of deer live in Nebraska: whitetail and mule deer. Mule deer are more populous in the western part of the state while whitetail deer can be found all over. In 2020, numbers showed that over 50,000 whitetail deer were harvested versus about 10,000 mule deer.
What Else Is Popular to Hunt in Nebraska?
Whitetail and mule deer aren’t the only big game animals you can hunt in Nebraska. There are also turkey, elk, pronghorn antelope and even bighorn sheep, which hunters travel from around the world for the opportunity to harvest. Depending on the wildlife management conditions, there may also be a handful of mountain lion permits issued each year.
If big game isn’t your thing, Nebraska has plenty of small game too. These include squirrels and both cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits. There are also seasons for waterfowl and upland birds as well as furbearing mammals such as raccoons, bobcats foxes and even river otters.