Certified volunteer hunter and bowhunter education instructors across Nebraska host classes throughout the year, but late summer and early fall are when most classes are offered.

Hunters ages 12 through 29 must take firearm hunter education to hunt any species with a firearm or air gun, and bowhunters age 12-29 must take bowhunter education to hunt deer, antelope, elk or bighorn sheep with a bow or crossbow.

Participants must be at least 11 years old to enroll in a class. Those ages 11-15 can complete an in-person or hybrid class (online and in-person requirements). Those ages 16 and older can complete online, hybrid or in-person classes.

For more information on hunter education classes and to enroll, visit HuntSafeNebraska.org. Instructors typically schedule classes 1-2 months ahead of time, so check back regularly or sign up to be notified when classes are scheduled at bit.ly/HunterEducationNotification.

Apprentice Hunter Education Exemption Certificate – Anyone ages 12-29 who has not completed firearm or bowhunter education may purchase an Apprentice Hunter Education Exemption Certificate that temporarily exempts them from hunter and bowhunter education requirements when they follow certain rules. For more information, visit HuntSafeNebraska.org.

Become a certified volunteer instructor – Game and Parks is seeking applicants interested in becoming a certified volunteer hunter or bowhunter education instructor. To view requirements and to fill out an application, visit HuntSafeNebraska.org or contact Hunter Nikolai at [email protected] or 402-471-6134.

Commissioners approve fee increase for state park entry permits

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved fee increases for its state park entry permits at its meeting Aug. 4 in Valentine.

The fee for the annual permit for Nebraska-licensed vehicles will increase from $30 to $35 and a temporary (daily) permit from $6 to $7 beginning Jan. 1, 2024. That approval activated an increase in permit fees for vehicles licensed outside of Nebraska. Those annual permits increased from $60 to $70, with the daily permit increasing from $12 to $14.

The duplicate permit will go from $15 to $17.50 for Nebraska-licensed vehicles and $30 to $35 for vehicles licensed outside of Nebraska.

Of the 38 states that have resident annual state park entry permits, only six have fees lowers than Nebraska’s.

The commissioners also authorized one lottery and one auction permit for a 2024 bighorn sheep hunting season, which will be Dec. 3-22.

Commissioners approved an application period for a bighorn management hunt which will allow for a management hunt application period separate from a regular sheep hunt application period, if such a hunt is recommended in the future.

If a bighorn sheep management season were approved in the future, it would be for Nebraska residents only, and the application period would begin 60 days before the opening of the management season and last 14 days. Management hunts would only be approved to manage the health and sustainability of a bighorn herd.

In other business, commissioners approved:

  • a recommendation to apply for a 2023 Recreational Trails Program grant to enhance the entrance of the new walkway at Smith Falls State Park east of Valentine, replace decking on an access bridge, and provide interpretive signage on new viewing decks and nearby trails;
  • permitting of hunting in some state parks and state historical parks for 2023 seasons; and
  • a permanent easement request from the Southern Public Power District for installation of an anchor for an overhead power line at Mormon Island State Recreation Area near Grand Island.

Staff reported on the Dark Skies Project educational programs at Merritt Reservoir SRA, which has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.

Commissioners also heard updates on muskellunge research at Merritt Reservoir.

Staff gave a presentation on a shooting range survey conducted in cooperation with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in which most of Game and Parks’ customers who are intermediate to advanced shooters believe handgun, rifle and long-range rifle ranges should be a priority. The survey also revealed:

  • While hunters are strongly aligned with shooting, anglers and park goers make up a significant portion of Nebraskans who participate in shooting sports.
  • Most Nebraska hunters, anglers and park goers favor ranges that provide educational programming.
  • While most customers prefer unstaffed outdoor ranges than staffed ones, most inexperienced customers prefer staffed outdoor and indoor ranges.
  • Most hunters, anglers and park goers are willing to drive up to 40 miles to use a range but not much beyond that.

An update was given on the progress of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shooting Park near North Platte, which is inspired by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It will include a 25-yard small bore and pistol range, 60-yard archery range, archery shooting tower, indoor motorized shooting gallery, and an indoor shooting simulator. When complete, the facility will complement Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in providing a hands-on facility where people can learn about and participate in the Wild West Show.

Also, Game and Parks’ Keith Koupal was presented the 2023 Fisheries Biologist of the Year Award from the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for his contributions to the fisheries conservation management and education.

Enjoy these Game and Parks outdoor skills events in August

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has scheduled interesting events in August to help build outdoor skills. Here are some opportunities:

Steel Plate Shooting Challenge is Aug. 12

Celebrate National Shooting Sports Month by participating in a Steel Plate Shooting Challenge at 9 a.m. Aug. 12 at Platte River State Park’s Outdoor Heritage Education Complex near Louisville.

The competition is based on accuracy and speed combined to shoot five targets using .22 rimfire handguns or rifles.

The cost is $15. Participants must be at least 16 years of age. Equipment will be provided, but participants may bring their own firearm and .22 LR ammunition only. All personal firearms must be cased. Eye and ear protection is required.

Some shooting experience is preferred but is not required. Expert instructors will be on hand to guide novice shooters.

Register for the event at register-ed.com/events/view/200831.

Umbrella Match for Handguns Aug. 22 and 26

The third and final round of the Umbrella Match for handguns will take place Aug. 22 and 26 at the Nebraska Outdoor Education Center, 4703 N. 44th St., Lincoln. Participants may compete on either date.

This event is open to pistols from all manufacturers. The course of fire will be the same as the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation Indoor League Series.

Check-in begins at 1 p.m. on Aug. 22 and at 8 a.m. on Aug. 26.

Competitors must shoot in two out of the three available matches (June, July, August) to be eligible for prizes.

See the calendar event entry at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for more information and to register.

Nebraska fall turkey permits available beginning Aug. 14

Hunters may begin purchasing 2023 Nebraska fall turkey permits at 1 p.m. Central time Aug. 14.

A fall turkey permit still is valid statewide, but significant changes have taken place for the fall season in 2023.

  • Each hunter may only have one fall permit.
  • The bag limit allows the take of one turkey of either sex with a shotgun or archery equipment.
  • All turkey harvests must be reported via Telecheck.
  • The fall turkey season is Oct. 1-Nov. 30.

Permits will be available at OutdoorNebraska.gov and at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission permitting offices.