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Nebraska Waterfowl Regulations: Season Guide

Nebraska’s diverse landscapes offer thrilling waterfowl hunting opportunities, but understanding the regulations is key to a successful and legal adventure.

NE Important Regulations

Waterfowl Schedules

  • Ducks and Coots: The duck and coot season varies by zone, with general dates spanning from October 14 to December 26 (Zone 1), October 7 to December 19 and January 10 to 31 (Zone 2), October 28 to January 9 and January 10 to 31 (Zone 3), and October 28 to January 9 (Zone 4).
  • Dark Geese: Gear up for goose hunting in the Platte River Unit (October 28 to February 9), Niobrara Unit (October 28 to February 9), and North Central Unit (October 7 to January 19).
  • White-fronted Goose: This season runs from October 7 to December 17 and January 25 to February 9, offering ample opportunities to bag these majestic birds.
  • Light Geese: Take aim at light geese during the regular season (October 7 to January 3 and January 25 to February 9) or the Conservation Order season (February 10 to April 15 in the East Zone and February 10 to April 5 in the West and Rainwater Basin Zones).

Bag Limits:

  • Ducks: Bag limits vary depending on tier and species. Tier I hunters can bag six ducks with restrictions, while Tier II allows for three ducks of any species and sex. Consult the official regulations for specific species restrictions within each tier.
  • Coots: The daily bag limit for coots is 15, offering a chance to diversify your harvest.
  • Dark Geese: Bag a maximum of five dark geese per day, including Canada, Snow, and White-fronted geese.
  • White-fronted Goose: The daily bag limit for white-fronted geese is two, allowing you to focus on these unique birds.
  • Light Geese: During the regular season, the daily bag limit for light geese is a whopping 50, granting you ample opportunities to control populations. The Conservation Order season has no possession limit, allowing you to focus on effective population management.

Duck Season Updates:

  • Merganser Limits: The merganser bag limit has been combined with the duck bag limit for Tier I hunters, simplifying regulations and streamlining your harvest options.
  • Hooded Mergansers: Good news for hooded merganser enthusiasts! The previous restriction has been lifted, allowing you to incorporate these birds into your hunting strategy.

Important Reminders:

  • Gray Wolves Back on Endangered Species List: Remember, gray wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and considered endangered in Nebraska. Respect their protected status and avoid any interactions.
  • Trapping Regulations: Ensuring animal welfare is crucial. Animals must be removed from traps as soon as they’re checked to minimize stress and suffering.
  • Body-Gripping Traps: Be aware of restrictions on body-gripping traps on U.S. Forest Service properties and other public lands. Choose alternative traps that adhere to regulations and minimize potential harm.
  • River Otter Season: The river otter season closes at the end of February or three days after 125 otters have been harvested. Stay informed about harvest numbers and season closure dates to avoid exceeding limits.

Nontoxic Shot: A Safe and Responsible Choice:

  • Mandatory on Certain Lands: Using nontoxic shot is required for waterfowl hunting on various designated areas, including production areas, wildlife refuges, and specific wildlife management areas. Check your specific hunting location to ensure compliance.
  • Proven Effectiveness: The table provided details the most effective nontoxic shot loads for different waterfowl, doves, and upland game birds, considering shooting range and activity. Choose the right shot size and weight for clean kills and ethical hunting practices.
  • Protecting the Environment: Nontoxic shot minimizes the risk of lead contamination in the environment, safeguarding wildlife and ecosystems.

Additional Regulations and Tips:

  • Hunter Orange: While not mandatory for upland game hunting or trapping, wearing hunter orange is strongly encouraged, especially during deer seasons, for enhanced visibility and safety.
  • Hunter Education: Ensure you and your companions meet the hunter education requirements for firearms and bows depending on your age and target species.
  • Apprentice Hunter Option: For young hunters (ages 12 and older) not yet certified, the Apprentice Hunter Education Exemption Certificate allows supervised hunting experiences accompanied by a licensed, experienced adult.
  • Firearm Restrictions: During the November firearm deer season, remember that centerfire rifles and handguns are restricted for hunting species other than deer. Exceptions apply to specific situations, so review the regulations carefully.
  • Shotgun and Ammunition Regulations: Only shotguns of 10 gauge or smaller are permitted for all game birds. Plugs are required for waterfowl and migratory game birds to limit shell capacity. Nontoxic shot is mandatory on designated lands and for waterfowl hunting in general.
  • Methods of Take: Familiarize yourself with the legal hunting methods for different species. Shotguns, archery equipment, and crossbows are permitted for specific game birds with varying restrictions. Electronic calls are prohibited for waterfowl during fall seasons but allowed for crows.
  • Blind Regulations: Follow the rules regarding blind construction and removal on state recreation areas and wildlife management areas. Respect designated areas for seasonal blinds and practice responsible blind use.
  • Leg Band Reporting: Contribute to valuable research by reporting any recovered U.S. Geological Survey leg bands from migratory game birds.
  • Depredation Control: Farmers and ranchers have the authority to control specific furbearer species causing damage to livestock or poultry without requiring permits. However, fur harvest regulations still apply for selling or possessing harvested animals.
  • Transportation and Possession: Remember to keep identifying feathers or limbs attached to pheasants and prairie grouse while in the field and during transport. For migratory game birds (except doves), one fully feathered wing or head plumage must be present during transport.

By understanding and adhering to these regulations and tips, you can ensure a safe, ethical, and enjoyable Nebraska waterfowl hunting experience. Remember, responsible hunting practices and respect for wildlife are essential for preserving the natural balance and ensuring future hunting opportunities for generations to come. Happy hunting!

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