Small in Numbers, Nebraska's Elk Herd Giving Resident Hunters Nice Quality

In Nebraska's surprisingly steep country in the northwestern corner of the state, elk numbers have been slowly growing, and that's good news for resident hunters lucky enough to draw a once-in-a-lifetime bull elk tag

Small in Numbers, Nebraska's Elk Herd Giving Resident Hunters Nice Quality
Thanks to a reminder from hunting pal Rob Muirhead, archer John Rickard had plenty to smile about on the second day of the Cornhusker State archery elk season as he tagged this huge bull with landowner agent John Ryan. (Photo courtesy of John Rickard)

While Nebraska is rarely thought of as a prime state to chase big elk in – nearby Colorado leads the pack with more than 250,000 elk while Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming often lead the way for huge trophy bulls – the Cornhusker State is actually a surprisingly good place to chase wapiti.

Naturally finding their way back into the state in the 1960s from nearby South Dakota and Wyoming herds, the first modern elk season was held in Nebraska in 1986 according to a variety of published reports.

One of those, an online report written by outdoor writer Larry Porter earlier this year in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, shows that Nebraska is home to only around 3,000 elk that reside in seven elk hunting units across the western reaches of the state.

Since the first Cornhusker State elk season in the mid-1980s, Porter reports state officials have issued a reported total of 3,946 permits that have resulted in hunters taking 2,020 elk including 998 bulls.


Tags come via a once-in-a-lifetime draw for Nebraska residents where hunters apply early each summer, accrue preference points, and hope for the best. About 1/3 of the tags allocated by the state are awarded to landowners with the other 2/3 of the tags going to hunters.


While the Cornhusker State's elk herd is a drop in the numerical bucket compared to other states further west, the quality of bulls taken can be very good for Nebraska residents fortunate enough to draw a tag.

How good are those bulls? The top typical American elk listed in the 13th edition of the Boone and Crockett Club's Records of North American Big Game is a Sioux County 6x7 bull that was taken by Robert L. Marsteller in 2004. That bull, which ranks 144th in the B&C book, has a gross score of 399 1/8 inches and a net score of 390 3/8 inches.

On the non-typical side, the top B&C American bull elk from the Cornhusker State is a 7x10 wapiti taken in 2008 by Dana L. Foster. That Garden County bull, which has a gross score of 424 7/8 inches and a net score of 409 7/8 inches, ranks 56th in the B&C rankings.

john rickkard nebraska ravine bull elk
While Nebraska's elk herd is small, numbering only around 3,000, residents like John Rickard who are lucky enough to draw a once-in-a-lifetime tag can harvest great elk like the 362 0/8-inch bull shown above. (Photo courtesy of John Rickard)


What about Cornhusker State bulls in the archery ranks? According to the Pope and Young Club, a total of eight American elk from Nebraska – all typicals, by the way – have been entered in the bowhunting record keeping system.

The top American elk entry from Nebraska is a 6x6 bull from Banner County taken by archer Doug Correll in 2014, a bull that net scores 362 7/8 inches and ranks #410 in the P&Y book. Interestingly enough, of the eight Nebraska elk entries in the P&Y record keeping system, five of those have come since the year 2011.

As the companion story to this piece shows, that list may grow by another entry thanks to Kearney, Nebraska, bowhunter John Rickard's recent big 6x6 bull elk.


Taken near Chadron with a bow on Sept. 16, 2017, Rickard's bull has been taped out by an official P&Y measurer and given a green gross score of 366 7/8 inches and a green net score of 362 0/8 inches.

Following completion of the mandatory 60-day drying period that the Pope and Young Club requires, the bull will receive a final official net score in November 2017. If that eventual number proves to be slightly higher than the green score currently is, it's possible Rickard's bull could become the new benchmark typical wapiti in Nebraska.

"I think that it's a pretty cool thing that the state of Nebraska opens it up and allows residents to hunt elk here," said Rickard. "Up where I hunted near Chadron, there are pretty good numbers of elk up there."

As he waits on the final score of his bull elk, Rickard also will be waiting to see what the bull's age is as well as some DNA information gleaned from the bull by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission biologists.

"The state of Nebraska actually pulls two front teeth from the elk to age it and they take a portion of the tongue to get some DNA information as well," said the hunter. "I guess they want to see if they are coming from nearby states like Colorado and Wyoming, or were they born and raised entirely in Nebraska."

Whatever the final information shows in terms of score, age and DNA, Rickard says that he's very grateful to have drawn his once-in-a-lifetime tag, as well as being able to punch that tag and make good on his opportunity to fill the freezer full of succulent meat and to tag one of the largest bulls ever harvested by a hunter in the Cornhusker State.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime tag and it was a once-in-a-lifetime bull," said Rickard. "I guess I couldn't have asked for a better scenario."

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

Major League Fishing pros Alton Jones, Jeff Sprague, Anthony Gagliardi and James Watson share their thoughts on how to approach fishing a new lake for bass.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a species Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing. Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

See More Trending Articles

More News

The roving bear that became a social media star has been released safely away from urban area. News

'Bruno' the Bear Safe After Epic Trip

Game & Fish Staff - July 06, 2020

The roving bear that became a social media star has been released safely away from urban area.

Get expert online help with new series on archery strategy and tactics. News

Bowhunter Basecamp Workshops Begin June 1

May 19, 2020

Get expert online help with new series on archery strategy and tactics.

(Updated) More closures nationwide possible as coronavirus pandemic continues. News

Alaska Re-Considers Bear Hunt Closure for Residents: COVID-19

Lynn Burkhead - April 02, 2020

(Updated) More closures nationwide possible as coronavirus pandemic continues.

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against the pandemic with special giveaway. News

Outdoors Industry Honoring Healthcare Heroes: COVID-19

April 27, 2020

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against...

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now