Skip to main content

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

P-Line Copolymer Topwater Fishing Line

P-Line Copolymer Topwater Fishing Line

Get the inside info on the new topwater-specific fishing line; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

Abu Garcia Zenon Spinning Reels

Abu Garcia Zenon Spinning Reels

New to the North American market comes the 'world's lightest spinning reel.'

Rapala OG Slim 6

Rapala OG Slim 6

The 2019 Bassmaster Classic champ Ott Defoe sits down with In-Fisherman Associate Publisher Todd Ceisner, to talk about Rapala's new OG Slim 6 crankbait. The OG Slim 6 will feature a flat-sided, balsa body, and will dive around 6 feet. Featuring a circuit board lip, the OG Slim 6 deflects off of cover better than traditional plastic lips. Offered in 14 colors and available in tackle stores Fall 2020. MSRP $10.99.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.The Best Compound Bows for 2020 Bows

The Best Compound Bows for 2020

Jace Bauserman - August 24, 2020

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?5 Great Lures For Bluegills Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

See More Trending Articles

More News

A recent article published on The Conversation draws a correlation between the psychological impact of so called “gun violence” on Americans and reduced trust.Trust and Misplaced Blame on Violence News

Trust and Misplaced Blame on Violence

Elizabeth McGuigan - September 17, 2020

A recent article published on The Conversation draws a correlation between the psychological...

Listed as endangered just half a century ago, the American alligator now thrives across the South and represents one of our great conservation success stories.Once Endangered, the American Alligator Survived Potential Disaster Thanks to Conservation Efforts News

Once Endangered, the American Alligator Survived Potential Disaster Thanks to Conservation Efforts

Carolee Anita Boyles - September 21, 2020

Listed as endangered just half a century ago, the American alligator now thrives across the...

Sightings of mountain lions in Midwestern states have increased slightly in recent years, and evidence points to many being transient young cats in search of mates.Cougar Numbers Increasing in the Midwest? News

Cougar Numbers Increasing in the Midwest?

Patrick Durkin - September 14, 2020

Sightings of mountain lions in Midwestern states have increased slightly in recent years, and...

Fake websites pretending to sell licenses have increased as state DNRs move to online fulfillment.Beware of Internet Hunting and Fishing License Sales Scams News

Beware of Internet Hunting and Fishing License Sales Scams

Andrew McKean - September 15, 2020

Fake websites pretending to sell licenses have increased as state DNRs move to online...

See More News

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

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

Phone Icon

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