Where to Hunt

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Public Access Atlas

The Public Access Atlas identifies and consolidates Nebraska’s public access resources for the benefit of hunters, trappers and anglers. It displays over 1.2 million acres of publicly accessible lands across Nebraska including state, federal, and conservation partner lands as well as privately-owned lands enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters program.

Open Fields and Waters lands

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Open Fields and Waters program increases public access opportunities on private lands.

These are private lands open to public, walk-in hunting, trapping and/or fishing. Many OFW sites allow these activities year-round during legal seasons. However, certain sites are only open for more specific uses or times (reference the Public Access Atlas legend and on-site signage). More information about hunting on OFW lands can be found in the front pages of the Public Access Atlas.

Properties owned, managed or leased by NGPC

Wildlife Management Areas

These areas are open to hunting, trapping and fishing in season, unless otherwise posted or restricted by special area regulations. WMA boundaries are displayed in the Public Access Atlas.

Motorized vehicles are restricted to roadways, parking areas or trails designated for such use. Portable tree stands shall not be installed, used or left in place on these areas from Feb. 1 through Aug. 15. It is unlawful to build or use permanent or semi-permanent tree stands that attach to any tree with nails, screws, bolts or wire. Camping is allowed, unless otherwise posted. Fires are allowed only in fireplaces, grills or fire rings, where provided by Game and Parks (propane/gas stoves and charcoal grills allowed). Target shooting is allowed on most areas, unless otherwise prohibited.

WMAs are managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Wildlife Division for the enhancement of wildlife habitat and for public hunting, trapping and fishing. However, they also provide opportunities for many other activities, including hiking, bird watching, nature study and primitive camping.

Hunters and anglers pay the entire bill for the acquisition, development and maintenance of these areas through the purchase of hunting, trapping and fishing permits, Habitat Stamps and through excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. Access to these lands is free, and no entry permit is necessary. However, to protect these areas and their many assets, there are certain rules that all must abide by. The Small Game and Waterfowl Guide and Big Game Guide lists some general regulations that apply to public use of these wildlife areas, however, this is just a synopsis. Special regulations apply on some areas, like Clear Creek WMA, Sacramento-Wilcox WMA and others. For more information view the handout below. For answers to specific questions, please contact your local Game and Parks Commission office.

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State Recreation Areas

Portions of some SRA lands are open to hunting and trapping from the Tuesday following Labor Day through the end of the spring turkey hunting season. Hunting and trapping on SRA lands is prohibited within 100 yards of any public-use facility or activity area, including picnic areas, campgrounds, private cabins, concession areas, boat ramps and parking lots. A park entry permit is required for each vehicle entering SRA lands.

State Parks & State Historical Parks

Some State Park and State Historical Park lands allow limited hunting opportunities. Special regulations apply and hunting access permits are often required. Trapping is authorized by special permit and only when depredation is occurring. A park entry permit is required for each vehicle entering SP or SHP lands.

Federal lands

U.S. Forest Service lands (USFS)

Most national forest and grassland areas managed by the USFS are open to hunting, unless otherwise posted. All motorized travel is restricted to designated roads or trails, which are “open” or “closed.” Cross-country or off-road uses of motorized vehicles are prohibited, unless routes or areas are open. Motor vehicle use for big game retrieval and dispersed camping is allowed within 300 feet of most roads and trails that are open. Refer to the Motor Vehicle Use Maps issued by the USFS for other regulations. They may be obtained at all Forest Service District offices, by request at U.S. Forest Service, 125 N. Main St., Chadron, NE 69337, 308-432-0300, or by visiting their website.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands (USACE)

USACE owns and manages multiple-purpose properties in Nebraska that provide public recreation opportunities. These properties have area-specific regulations for public use related to hunting, trapping, fishing and other activities. Missouri River USACE lands downstream of Gavins Point Dam are part of the Missouri River Recovery Program. For more information, call 402-996-3761 or visit the website below and click “Maps and MRRP Sites,” and then “Nebraska” under the “MRRP Sites by State” banner. For information on Missouri River USACE lands upstream of Gavins Point Dam along Lewis and Clark Lake (402-667-2546) or USACE lands surrounding Harlan County Lake (308-799-2105) call or visit the links below.

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U.S Fish and Wildlife Service lands (USFWS)

Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA)

WPAs are managed by the USFWS and purchased with Federal Duck Stamp revenue. They are open to walk-in public hunting, trapping, and fishing. Nontoxic shot is required. Camping, target shooting and black-tailed prairie dog shooting are prohibited. Other special regulations may apply. For more information, call 308-263-3000 or visit their website.

National Wildlife Refuges (NWR)

NWRs are managed by the USFWS. Portions of many NWRs are open to limited hunting or fishing. Special regulations apply and differ by refuge. For more information, visit their websites, view refuge hunting and fishing brochures or contact a refuge directly.

National Park Service (NPS)

Portions of NPS lands allow limited access for hunting, trapping and fishing. Special regulations apply. For more information visit their website.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Operations Areas (USBOR)

Sites displayed as Operations Areas in the Public Access Atlas and are owned and managed by USBOR and are open to walk-in hunting and fishing unless otherwise posted. Some USBOR lands in Nebraska are jointly managed with other entities, such as Game and Parks or the USFWS and are displayed accordingly in the atlas.

Conservation partner lands

Natural Resources District Recreation Areas (NRD)

NRDs own and manage multiple-purpose properties in Nebraska that provide public recreation opportunities. Some NRD lands are managed by Game and Parks and labeled as WMAs. NRD properties have area-specific regulations related to hunting, fishing, trapping and other activities. Information on NRD lands can be found by visiting their website or by contacting the nearest NRD office. Area regulations also are typically posted on-site. Rules and regulations for N-CORPE lands open to public hunting can be found below.

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Other conservation partner lands

Conservation partners, including Platte River Basin Environments (PRBE), Ducks Unlimited (DU) and Pheasants and Quail Forever, have acquired or control specific, high-conservation value properties. They have allowed inclusion of specific properties in the Public Access Atlas, and there are area-specific regulations for public use related to hunting, fishing, trapping and other activities. For more information on publicly accessible PRBE lands and on DU revolving properties open to public hunting through a cooperative agreement with Game and Parks, visit the links below. Some properties owned/managed by other partners (The Nature Conservancy, The Crane Trust, National Audubon Society, Nebraska Public Power District, City of Alliance, and others) are enrolled in the OFW program, many of which are displayed as “OFW Special Regulation” sites or are available through other reservation-based access programs.

Private lands

Most hunting and trapping in Nebraska is done on private land, where trespassing is prohibited by law. Hunters and trappers must get permission before hunting or trapping on private land that is not part of a public access program, whether it is posted or not. Publicly accessible lands are displayed in the Public Access Atlas.

Closed lands

You may not hunt in, unless otherwise posted, state wayside areas, hatcheries, reserves, state refuges or any roadway or highway, including the right-of-way. Note on State Refuges – established by statute and closed to hunting except as noted in the Small Game and Waterfowl Guide. These are private lands where landowner permission is required to hunt and include: Garden (includes Clear Creek WMA Refuge), Dodge-Saunders, Boyd-Holt and Lincoln County Refuge.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>