COVID-19 alters Panhandle turkey hunting scene

April 20, 2020 Justin Haag

A pair of toms search for hens in the Pine Ridge of Sheridan County last week. (Nebraskaland/Justin Haag)

This time of year, with Nebraska’s popular firearm turkey season getting underway, the Panhandle and its public lands are usually bustling with people from near and far in pursuit of a gobbler. This spring, though, people are being asked to keep their outdoor recreational pursuits close to home and there are not nearly as many hunters coming from out-of-state.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is taking the coronavirus crisis seriously, and is asking hunters to do so, too.

Panhandle Afield Logo

Nebraska officials have recommended a 14-day self-quarantine for all visitors prior to entering the state, and the sale of nonresident turkey permits was stopped by Game and Parks in late March. The agency contacted all non-residents who had bought a permit to relay travel advisory information and an option for a full refund.

For those who do hunt, social distancing and other guidelines are designed to limit spread of the virus – yes, even when people are in the woods. To reduce unnecessary social encounters, hunters should buy permits online and bring needed supplies from home. They also should arrange hunting private property over the phone or Internet and not subject landowners to the unnecessary dangers of a face-to-face interaction.

Hunter Baillie, a wildlife manager for Game and Parks’ northwestern district, said staff reports indicate Panhandle residents who hunt close to home should have ample opportunity to punch their tags.

The Pine Ridge and Wildcat Hills are reporting solid populations of turkeys, and hunters will capitalize on decreased pressure resulting from the non-resident restrictions, he said.

Keep in mind, the more responsible people are in their outdoor pursuits, the less likely further restrictions will be needed.

For other considerations and Game and Parks’ latest updates about the coronavirus issue, visit the site dedicated to the issue at

Stay healthy, friends.

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