Spring archery turkey season opens Sunday

Ponca State Park youth mentor Ponca Bluffs Jake Hunt. Nguyen, April 6, 2014. Copyright NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Hunters need to keep safety in mind as the Nebraska archery turkey season for youth and adults begins on Sunday.

The shotgun season for youth begins April 7, followed by the general shotgun season on April 14. All turkey seasons close May 31, giving turkey hunters ample time in the field.

When in the field, keep safety in mind even when a firearm isn’t being used. Wear blaze orange when changing locations and never knock an arrow until you are set up in your hunting spot. Eliminate the colors white, red, black and blue from your hunting attire. The head of a gobbler can change to these colors in a moment’s notice. Positively identify the target as a turkey and always know for sure what is behind the target before you shoot. If in doubt, don’t shoot.

During the spring season, a person may have three permits.

Permits are valid statewide and allow for the taking of one male or bearded female per permit. A small game permit is not required to turkey hunt. A turkey permit and habitat stamp is required for hunters 16 and older. Resident veterans and seniors 69 and older do not need a habitat stamp. Turkey permits may be purchased at Nebraska Game and Parks permitting offices or online.

Hunters ages 12 to 29 must have completed a firearm hunter education course when hunting with a firearm or air gun. Those hunting with archery equipment do not need hunter education.

Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. It’s unlawful to take or attempt to take any turkey perched in a tree before sunrise. Hunters are encouraged to read all the rules and regulations in the 2018 turkey hunting guide. Pick up a copy of the Public Access Atlas, which is available at local vendors and online at outdoornebraska.org. The atlas shows all the public areas available to hunt turkeys across Nebraska and in Lincoln County.

Make your spring turkey hunt enjoyable and keep safety first. While you are hunting, introduce a youngster to turkey hunting and keep the hunting tradition alive.

Cranes

Sandhill cranes have invaded the Platte River valley in full force and North Platte has many opportunities for those wishing to get a glimpse of these prehistoric birds.

While people are encouraged to enjoy the crane migration, remember that these birds are here to put on crucial body fat to continue their journey north.

Please use common sense and courtesy when viewing any wildlife. With the resent whooping crane sighting, many people have been out crane watching. Endangered species must not be approached as they are protected by state and federal regulations. Please keep your distance and use bird viewing etiquette by staying in your vehicle and do not trespass on private property.

Viewing areas

Buffalo Bill’s Ranch State Recreation Area has a pull-off area near the campground to view cranes in nearby meadows and a viewing blind is located behind the Scout’s Rest Ranch barn at the state historical park. Bird watchers can get the best views in the mornings from the crane blind and spotting scopes can be checked out from the historical park to get a birds-eye view of the cranes. Parking is available near the mansion with a short walk to the blind. Call the Buffalo Bill Ranch Historical Park at 308-535-8035 to reserve the scopes or for more information about the blind. A 2018 park permit is required at these areas.

Muskrat Run Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is also a great place to view cranes from. While the birds don’t land in the WMA, hundreds of birds fly treetop high over the open meadow of the WMA throughout the day and are particularly visible towards sunset. Getting a glimpse of these great birds flying overhead is sure to please all bird watchers. For those that want a great experience, a short hike into the WMA can be done to see and hear the cranes.

North River WMA, located between North Platte and Hershey, offers a great view of birds in flight as they soar over the Platte River looking for places to roost on the river for the night. Sights and sounds of cranes are very visible at this WMA. Bird watchers that want to stay in a vehicle can park in the parking area adjacent to the Hershey river bridge on North Hershey Road.

For those that don’t mind a hike, a river blind is available at North River WMA. From Hershey drive north on North Hershey Road three miles to Wildlife Road, turn right and go almost two miles east on the gravel. The furthest east parking lot on the WMA boundary is the best parking area to use to get to the blind.

Getting to the blind requires a half-mile hike from the parking lot over mostly level terrain but water resistant footwear is recommended. Small signs with reflective tacks show the way along with solar lights on part of the cut path. The blind has room for about eight adults. Crane viewing etiquette is listed in the blind as well as a sign-in sheet for users. No permits are required to use this free blind, but funding for wildlife management areas comes from the purchase of habitat stamps. Stamps cost $25 and are available online at outdoornebraska.org, at the Nebraska Game and Parks office and local vendors. Help keep these public areas available for years to come by purchasing a habitat stamp.

Clear Creek WMA on the west end of Lake McConaughy is another place to view cranes on the wetlands during the day. Cranes rest in the meadow midday between feeding. View cranes spiraling down from great heights in the air as they lose altitude before landing.

All the viewing areas are first-come-first-served. The public should dress accordingly for the weather and abide by crane viewing etiquette.

The North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau has a crane viewing brochure that includes a map of roads that cranes can be seen from in the North Platte area. Using a vehicle as a blind is a good way to watch cranes. Be sure to keep safety in mind when pulling over on roadways. Staying off busy highways and viewing the birds from back roads is best.

Hunter education

Youth needing a Hunt Safe Session should start the online course and register for upcoming classes now. Registration is done at outdoornebraska.org, click the education tab, then click hunter education. There will be a class offered April 12, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Mid Plains Community College north campus, located at 1101 Halligan Drive in North Platte.

Certification is done by studying for free as long as you need with the online course material at outdoornebraska.org, take the online test and once you have passed the course pay a $29.50 vendor fee, then attend and pass the two-hour Hunt Safe Session with a certified hunter education instructor before getting the hunter education certificate. Students must register online for this class and print and bring their online course certificate.

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