For novice turkey hunters, the trail to bringing home the bird during the popular wild turkey season begins near Omaha and Lincoln this week.
It starts there for veteran hunters, too.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is hosting free spring turkey hunting workshops Tuesday at the Lincoln Izaak Walton League and Saturday at Platte River State Park.
Nebraska's spring turkey season starts Sunday for bowhunters. Youth shotgun season starts April 7. The regular shotgun season begins April 14. All seasons end May 31.
Iowa's resident-only youth season is April 7 to 15. Iowa's four spring seasons are April 16 to 19, April 20 to 24, April 25 to May 1 and May 2 to 20. The resident archery-only season is April 16 to May 20.
There is no minimum age to hunt turkey in Nebraska, making it an ideal first-hunt opportunity for kids, said Jeff Lusk, the Game and Parks upland game manager in Lincoln.
The two hands-on workshops are designed for those interested in learning the basics of turkey hunting in Nebraska. Game and Parks outdoor education specialists will cover all aspects of turkey hunting: beginner basics, wild turkey biology, high-tech scouting, habitat, equipment, advanced hunting techniques and safety.
You'll even have a chance to tune up your turkey call.
Tuesday's workshop is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Izaak Walton League clubhouse, 10801 S. 134th St. southwest of Lincoln, near Bennet.
Saturday's workshop is from 1 to 3 p.m. at Platte River State Park's Mallet Lodge. The park is near Louisville. A park entry permit is required.
Shotgun sight-in and patterning sessions will follow each workshop. Bring your shotgun and at least five rounds of turkey ammunition, but keep all weapons in a case, unloaded and separate from shells.
Space is limited. To register, visit HuntSafeNebraska.org.
During most of the 1990s, Nebraska hunters killed nearly 5,000 wild turkeys each spring.
The harvest has soared to nearly 25,000 birds in recent springs, Lusk said.
Nearly 24,200 turkeys were taken during spring 2010, including 2,912 by youth. There were 30,693 spring turkey permits sold that year, plus 6,210 youth permits. Youth permit sales increased 124 percent from the year before.
Last spring, regular permit holders killed 20,237 turkeys, for a success rate of 67 percent. Youth hunters took 3,065, a 48 percent success rate.
Lusk said that last spring's decline in total harvest mirrored a slight decrease in the number of permit buyers, although more youth permits were sold.
"The turkey population is still high statewide," he said.
Lusk said that last year's summer-long Missouri River flood pushed turkeys out of the bottomlands into inland woodlands. He also has heard varying reports about whether winter flocks are starting to break up.
"There are good numbers in the northern Panhandle, around Fort Robinson State Park," Lusk said.
Statewide spring permits allow for hunters to bag one male or bearded female turkey per permit. Hunters are allowed three per person per calendar year. The cost is $23 for Nebraska residents and $90 for nonresidents.
Spring youth permits, for those under age 16, are $5 for residents and nonresidents. Bag limits are the same as the regular permits.
Spring landowner permits are $11.50 for residents and $45 for nonresidents.
Biologists say the return of the wild turkey — the largest upland game bird in North America — to Nebraska, Iowa and other states is one of the great success stories of wildlife management.
Hunting wiped out wild turkeys in Nebraska by about 1915. They were reintroduced in 1959 and the population prospered. Turkeys are found in every Nebraska county.
"It's a good entry-level hunting experience," Lusk said.
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