NEBRASKA CITY — Big game hunters will have expanded opportunities to win or buy Nebraska permits in lotteries and auctions next year.
The expanded lottery options will provide more opportunities for non-residents to hunt elk, pronghorn, deer and wild turkey, and attract more hunter revenue, said Scott Taylor, wildlife administrator at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
“This is a bit of an experiment,” he said. “We’ll see how popular they are. We’ll listen to feedback, watch lottery entries and will adjust as necessary.”
State Game and Parks commissioners unanimously approved the changes Friday during a meeting at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City.
The new multi-species lottery permits, which will be drawn in 2014, are:
» One Super Tag (elk, antelope, deer and turkey) for residents or non-residents, with multiple $10 entries per person allowed. The current Super Tag for residents only, allowing one $25 entry per person, remains.
» One Combo (antelope, deer and turkey) for residents, with one $10 entry per person allowed.
» One Combo (antelope, deer and turkey) for residents or non-residents with multiple $10 entries per person allowed.
Commissioners also authorized one additional auction elk tag for residents or non-residents and one lottery bighorn sheep permit for residents. Both will be valid in 2014.
Nebraska’s national reputation as a source of trophy-class elk makes the auction permits highly desirable, Taylor said. The state currently issues two elk permits by auction. In addition to one auction permit set aside solely for Nebraska residents, there will be two resident-non-resident auction permits available next year.
“This will allow non-residents some more access to elk tags and drive some income from these very valuable permits,” Taylor said.
The new Super Tag for residents or non-residents will give non-Nebraskans with no money to compete with high-rollers in an auction a chance to draw a state elk permit, he said.
The bighorn permit will be the first issued by lottery since 2011. There will be no auctioned bighorn permit because of disease setbacks and a lack of fully mature rams in the state’s five western Nebraska herds.
Barring setbacks, several rams at least 9 years old should be available for auction permits in 2016, said Todd Nordeen, Game and Parks wildlife manager in western Nebraska.
Jim Douglas, Game and Parks director, said biologists are betting on being able to provide a respectable ram for a Nebraskan with a lottery permit to hunt 14 months from now.
“People who spend $130,000 (to win a permit at auction) have a different satisfaction level than someone who puts in $25 in a lottery,” he said.
Nebraska’s reintroduced herds include an estimated 400 bighorns, the largest number of the animals in the state since they were wiped out around 1900. The bighorn season date and site of the hunt will be determined next year after wildlife biologists pinpoint accessible rams.
In other business:
» Nordeen said elk hunters took 70 bulls and seven cows as of Tuesday. Bull season closes Oct. 27. There were a record 2,615 elk permit applications this year, with 323 permits issued.
» Two additions to existing wildlife management areas were approved. Schlagel Creek in Cherry County will grow by 130 acres. The area features deer and turkey hunting and a trout stream. The Jack Sinn site near Ceresco in Lancaster County will expand by 183 acres. The wetland is a popular pheasant hunting area and offers waterfowl hunting.
» The board created a commission order for deer, antelope and elk hunting. The order includes rules regarding bag limits, season dates and opening and closing periods pertaining to hunting those species. With seasons underway, the order mirrors the regulations that were passed last March.
Unlike staff recommendations for regulations, recommendations in a commission order may be changed and approved by commissioners during the same meeting following a public hearing. A commission order takes effect 15 days following approval and posting on Game and Parks’ website. Regulations approved by the commissioners require additional review by the state attorney general and the governor for final approval.
» The board recognized Tammie Partsch of Nebraska City, president of the Friends of Arbor Lodge Foundation, for her leadership in fundraising and mansion, garden and grounds renovations at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park.