Public land Nebraska

Haulinbass02

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
34
Location
Texas
I have read a lot of the posts about chasing Mulies in NE on public land. Only reason I’m considering it is because of the OTC rifle season permits and I don’t feel like trying my hand at the other states’ draws just yet.
We have limited experience here in Texas at one of the only two public land areas we can hunt Mulies. When people talk about pressure, I’m not really sure how it compares to here, but when we are talking about 50k acres and everywhere we turn is orange, I wouldn’t think it could be much worse.
I’ve looked at the Pine Ridge area near Chadron so far but I realize the easiest to access is always the most pressured. I’m planning on staying the entire time so my wife and kids will come along and stay somewhere in our camper, probably the state park nearby.
I’ve talked to people that bird hunt up there and they have said the pressure is low and there are lots of deer. Some of the posts on here seem to tell a different tale.....
Is this a pipe dream thinking I can truly be successful on public land up there or is it like anywhere else, if you work hard you can find what you’re looking for?


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Jbenson

Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2015
Messages
64
Which rifle season are you thinking of? Rifle season just got over last weekend and that's the only rifle season as far as I know. I'm from Nebraska, and if I were you I wouldnt waste your time. Yeah, a VERY small percentage of guys get lucky and kill big ones on public ground. But most kill the first forky they see, so there's typically very few deer with any age to them. Until the state of Nebraska learns how to manage their wildlife, it won't change. Putting rifle season during the rut is insane, but they put tag numbers as priority so they can make the money. And that's why Nebraska will never have the age class or quality as every other state that surrounds us. Do yourself a favor and go elsewhere, or hunt nebraska with archery or muzzleloader and you'd have a better chance.
 
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Haulinbass02

Haulinbass02

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
34
Location
Texas
I believed that NE only had one rifle season so that time period was what I wanted to hunt. It almost coincides with the 2 week season we have here in TX.
Coming from someone who lives in NE saying this, it is discouraging. I know and understand the benefits of a draw management system. Understanding the draw systems is pretty much impossible.
I am the only hunter in our group that bow hunts. So rifle season is how to get us all together at camp. I may end up paying for the website that manages your draw entries and hope it goes well for us. Don’t necessarily not want to go to Colorado or the like but I was hoping to hear better news about NE.


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Jtay561

Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2017
Messages
69
Location
North Idaho
Nebraska is an opportunity state, not a trophy state. That means their game agency manages for total hunter success rates without much concern for buck size.

If your looking for a fun time with some buddies, just do it. I have hunted Nebraska as a non-res about 6 years, both archery and rifle, and have always had some level of “success”

The biggest bucks I have shot were archery season which sees very low pressure everywhere I have gone. Here is one from a couple weeks ago. Not my biggest NE buck, nor a MD, but it shows there are decent deer up there 9EF9A3ED-479E-409D-8CF6-B480A7A50046.jpeg

Overall, Nebraska is a good state with a lot of deer. Not Illinois, Ohio, or Iowa monsters but it has good deer if your willing to put the time in. In all 6 years I have hunted there, I haven’t encountered many hunters who take it very seriously outside of the 8 day rifle. Put the time in a use the pressure to your advantage. Then just have some fun with it!
 
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Haulinbass02

Haulinbass02

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
34
Location
Texas
Nebraska is an opportunity state, not a trophy state. That means their game agency manages for total hunter success rates without much concern for buck size.

If your looking for a fun time with some buddies, just do it. I have hunted Nebraska as a non-res about 6 years, both archery and rifle, and have always had some level of “success”

The biggest bucks I have shot were archery season which sees very low pressure everywhere I have gone. Here is one from a couple weeks ago. Not my biggest NE buck, nor a MD, but it shows there are decent deer up there View attachment 235965

Overall, Nebraska is a good state with a lot of deer. Not Illinois, Ohio, or Iowa monsters but it has good deer if your willing to put the time in. In all 6 years I have hunted there, I haven’t encountered many hunters who take it very seriously outside of the 8 day rifle. Put the time in a use the pressure to your advantage. Then just have some fun with it!

In all seriousness, my measured level of MD success at this point is putting one on the ground, or just having the opportunity to take that shot. I’m not looking to make a record book, but a decent mule deer eats as good as the next. I’m not one to shoot a forky or little spike unless that is all the opportunity I get and even then I will most likely pass.
We hunt hard and expect to be able to have a good time, stories beautiful scenery and hopefully a good deer in the freezer.
I’m still leaning towards doing it and this is encouraging info.


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Laramie

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Messages
717
Archery whitetail has relatively low pressure. Archery mule deer on the large public pieces has moderate pressure. Rifle pressure for both is very high unless you have private ground. Nebraska has one of the lowest percentages of public land. Hunters without private are all forced into the same areas. The rifle season is only 9 days and always starts on the Saturday closest to November 13th. Basically always peak rut. Long story short, it's a bad rifle hunt for most (not all) public land hunters.
 

Jbenson

Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2015
Messages
64
I agree with what has been added to the comments. I guess each person has a different definition of success. Mule deer is a tough game here because everyone wants to do it. Honestly, if you guys could/would look for a trespass hunt or a friend of a friend type of deal, you would get in to better deer. There are definitely big deer in Nebraska, but most of those are living on private ground. So if there's any possibility of private ground for you, that would help tremendously. If you want to hang out with good company for a week and have a good time, that could be done. Also, you could have way more opportunity with whitetails as stated above.
 

Jbenson

Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2015
Messages
64
Let's just say I'm from Nebraska and I've spent a lot of years in the western states, and if I were looking for a "quality" hunt on public ground, Nebraska would be down my list quite a ways. Private ground is a different story.
 
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Haulinbass02

Haulinbass02

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
34
Location
Texas
How would one go about finding access to private land to hunt in NE?
Here in Texas it’s all leased for a season or multiple seasons and good luck trying to get access to anything for less than an arm or a leg. Week long access is unheard of.


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Daubsnu1

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
84
Location
Nebraska
I've hunted Nebraska public since 2011...tagged three Mule deer in that time...the biggest is pictured below. I've never seen a larger deer on public land before or since...honestly I think this buck wandered on to public from private...he was just 1/2 mile from property line.

Tags are over the counter, so be prepared to see lots of hunters from out of state. Most seasons I see more hunters than deer. PM me if you want to chat more.
 

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Haulinbass02

Haulinbass02

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
34
Location
Texas
So let me ask some clarification here. When you guys talk about “pressure” what exactly do you mean? When I talk about the sheer amount of hunters I see hunting the places here in Texas, I mean, I will sit on a ridge and look 1/2 mile across and see 6 guys all looking into the same small canyon. I see 8-10 different headlights hiking up into the canyons a mile further out than me like a line of ants.
I can look across the river bed which is a mile or more across and see headlamps and headlights of dozens of hunters. Daylight is an orange army and literally every nook and cranny there is to glass or check has someone there.
There is very little exaggeration to this. We hunted the same series of draws and small canyons two days and had guys meet us in there coming and going. Both days. Multiple times. To the point we
were just going to pack up and leave. But there was no where to go. If it is THIS bad up in NE, then I might go somewhere else.
But there was mention about the lack of public land access in NE. Compared to here in TX, it probably is more. ALL of the State parks are draw only hunts. So it isn’t true public access, albeit it is public land.
The true public access land is very, very limited here.


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gphiliph

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2018
Messages
16
Location
Nebraska
So let me ask some clarification here. When you guys talk about “pressure” what exactly do you mean? When I talk about the sheer amount of hunters I see hunting the places here in Texas, I mean, I will sit on a ridge and look 1/2 mile across and see 6 guys all looking into the same small canyon. I see 8-10 different headlights hiking up into the canyons a mile further out than me like a line of ants.
I can look across the river bed which is a mile or more across and see headlamps and headlights of dozens of hunters. Daylight is an orange army and literally every nook and cranny there is to glass or check has someone there.
There is very little exaggeration to this. We hunted the same series of draws and small canyons two days and had guys meet us in there coming and going. Both days. Multiple times. To the point we
were just going to pack up and leave. But there was no where to go. If it is THIS bad up in NE, then I might go somewhere else.
But there was mention about the lack of public land access in NE. Compared to here in TX, it probably is more. ALL of the State parks are draw only hunts. So it isn’t true public access, albeit it is public land.
The true public access land is very, very limited here.


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Theres ground just more in the west. Rifle season is when it gets stupid.
 

browning2480

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2018
Messages
411
Location
NW Arkansas
We hunt Colorado for MD also. Put in the draw and go hunt. If you don’t draw, go to Nebraska and actually see what it is like for yourself. You will never know if you don’t go. Muzzleloader will be less pressure.
 

Daubsnu1

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
84
Location
Nebraska
So let me ask some clarification here. When you guys talk about “pressure” what exactly do you mean? When I talk about the sheer amount of hunters I see hunting the places here in Texas, I mean, I will sit on a ridge and look 1/2 mile across and see 6 guys all looking into the same small canyon. I see 8-10 different headlights hiking up into the canyons a mile further out than me like a line of ants.
I can look across the river bed which is a mile or more across and see headlamps and headlights of dozens of hunters. Daylight is an orange army and literally every nook and cranny there is to glass or check has someone there.
There is very little exaggeration to this. We hunted the same series of draws and small canyons two days and had guys meet us in there coming and going. Both days. Multiple times. To the point we
were just going to pack up and leave. But there was no where to go. If it is THIS bad up in NE, then I might go somewhere else.
But there was mention about the lack of public land access in NE. Compared to here in TX, it probably is more. ALL of the State parks are draw only hunts. So it isn’t true public access, albeit it is public land.
The true public access land is very, very limited here.


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I lived in Missouri for 15+ years, had opportunity to hunt on private land that butted up against public...hardwoods, lots of timber, sounds a lot like what you experience in TX - orange army, lots of people.

Western Nebraska hunting is different...Sandhills are vast, rolling hills, with the occasional lake, marsh, river/stream. Whitetails tend to hang in the lower areas or near timber. Mule deer tend to hang higher in hills, rougher country. I love hunting the Sandhills...my uncle had a ranch in the area...special place for me.

Here is an example: My last year hunting public I arrived at 4 AM and started walking in (sunrise at 7:30 AM). Hiking through the hills...ran in to a Dad and Son, and another hunter walking in. Talked to both and got a sense of where they were going, so we didn't set up too close to one another.

Set up on a hill about 3 miles from nearest road...Heard a stomp behind me about 30 minutes in to shooting time...2x2 young Mule buck was 90 yards away, I decided not to take him, as it was opening morning. From my hill I could see probably 2 miles in every direction. I counted 10 does that morning...and 16 hunters...just that one buck. Pretty standard.

Next morning brother joined me...we hiked in 2 miles...sat on hill...saw two does and three hunters before lunch. After lunch we decided to get some miles on the boots...walked to edges of public land...saw 8 different hunters and no deer. We generally stay up in the hills and chase Muley's...lots of hunters hang around timber or lower areas looking for any deer they can put a scope on.

The public areas I have hunted. All are public, anyone can hunt anywhere they want. But roads are limited and you can't take vehicles off-road:

Halsey National forest, 75,000 acres
Valentine National Wildlife refuge, 72,000 acres
McKelvie National Forrest, 116,000 acres
Crescent Lake National Wildlife refuge, ~50,000 acres
Pine Ridge, 141,000 acres (I hunted here as a boy one time)

Here are some pictures...it is vast. Be sure to bring GPS...once you get back in the hills it all looks the same...easy to get lost. We averaged between 5-8 miles a day walking. Longest was 12 miles total for the day. Remember, no vehicles off road...you kill a deer 5 miles in, you are packing him out. Sandy soil makes game carts about useless. I brought decoy sled and drug my deer out.

Holler if you have more questions. Brother and I gained access to family friends ranch this year, so I'm not hunting public any more.
 

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Page Master

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
Messages
121
I lived in Missouri for 15+ years, had opportunity to hunt on private land that butted up against public...hardwoods, lots of timber, sounds a lot like what you experience in TX - orange army, lots of people.

Western Nebraska hunting is different...Sandhills are vast, rolling hills, with the occasional lake, marsh, river/stream. Whitetails tend to hang in the lower areas or near timber. Mule deer tend to hang higher in hills, rougher country. I love hunting the Sandhills...my uncle had a ranch in the area...special place for me.

Here is an example: My last year hunting public I arrived at 4 AM and started walking in (sunrise at 7:30 AM). Hiking through the hills...ran in to a Dad and Son, and another hunter walking in. Talked to both and got a sense of where they were going, so we didn't set up too close to one another.

Set up on a hill about 3 miles from nearest road...Heard a stomp behind me about 30 minutes in to shooting time...2x2 young Mule buck was 90 yards away, I decided not to take him, as it was opening morning. From my hill I could see probably 2 miles in every direction. I counted 10 does that morning...and 16 hunters...just that one buck. Pretty standard.

Next morning brother joined me...we hiked in 2 miles...sat on hill...saw two does and three hunters before lunch. After lunch we decided to get some miles on the boots...walked to edges of public land...saw 8 different hunters and no deer. We generally stay up in the hills and chase Muley's...lots of hunters hang around timber or lower areas looking for any deer they can put a scope on.

The public areas I have hunted. All are public, anyone can hunt anywhere they want. But roads are limited and you can't take vehicles off-road:

Halsey National forest, 75,000 acres
Valentine National Wildlife refuge, 72,000 acres
McKelvie National Forrest, 116,000 acres
Crescent Lake National Wildlife refuge, ~50,000 acres
Pine Ridge, 141,000 acres (I hunted here as a boy one time)

Here are some pictures...it is vast. Be sure to bring GPS...once you get back in the hills it all looks the same...easy to get lost. We averaged between 5-8 miles a day walking. Longest was 12 miles total for the day. Remember, no vehicles off road...you kill a deer 5 miles in, you are packing him out. Sandy soil makes game carts about useless. I brought decoy sled and drug my deer out.

Holler if you have more questions. Brother and I gained access to family friends ranch this year, so I'm not hunting public any more.

That part of the state is super neat. Amazing things find a way to live out there.
 
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