Nebraska Mule Deer
I am new to the forum and may have missed the introduction area and I apologize if I did. I am 43 and have lived in Southeast Minnesota all of my life. We grow some nice Whitetails here and love every minute of it. I would like to research doing a public land mule deer hunt in Nebraska. I am looking at the Crawford and Chadron areas and going in December for the ML season. I am not looking for handouts or specifics but any information or direction would be greatly appreciated. If you are looking for Minnesota information please do not hesitate to ask I would love to help!
Welcome to the forum. You picked the right spot in Nebraska, however last year was a total bust. No deer, no food, no cover, and hunters from at least 20 states.
The area you picked has been my favorite hunting spot for 11 years, but it appears to be over, the word was out and hunters from California and Pennsylvania and most all states in between converged on Crawford last year. The drought and fire completely destroyed and vegetation and I mean absolutely all of it.
I would suggest you call the game and fish before you do any planning. If the game returns and you want to hunt it send me a PM. Sorry about the report.
I archery antelope hunted in NE last year and the fires definitely destroyed a lot of deer habitat.
I taught in Crawford and lived in Chadron for 8 years before moving to Rushville for the last 6 years. Just moved to Western Wyoming and can't wait to get started hunting out here. While that area has the most public ground these gentleman are right in that the fires last summer pretty much gutted that area. Even the stuff up north of Hay Springs and Rushville was beat up bad by fires. If fires didn't get it then the drought did. I loved having the month of Dec to hunt with my black powder rifle in NE. The rifle crowds have left and the bucks were on feeding patterns. If you decide to do this I would advice buying a doe tag for a whitetail doe so you don't go home empty handed. It may get you on some private ground if you stop to ask if you can shoot a doe. Once they see your trustworthy and do what you say it may lead to being able to hunt for a buck. That area is full of great people! Not saying every door you knock on will let you hunt but if you approach it right eventually you will get on to some private ground if you want. There is lots of public ground out there but you will have to put in some boot leather covering it to find deer that time of year. If you are looking for Mule deer specifically then I would concentrate around the Crawford/ Fort Robinson area and WMAs north of Harrison and Hay Springs. You will find them in along the creek bottoms out there too but not as much as the WT. Wish I better news for you but mother nature has stood up to show who's in charge and it's gonna be a few years before things recover out there. I definitely would advice a call to the Game and Fish office in Alliance NE to get more info.
This fall (2013) will be my 2nd year hunting Nebraska with that said I did a lot of research trying to figure out where to go. I talked to the game and parks in the area I wanted to go which helped out a lot. I also picked up a book called Public Land Mulies which was a good read. I did notice and heard that this year was really bad. I talked to a guy that was hunting the area I hunted who had hunted it for the past 9 years and he said that 2012 was the worse he had ever seen it.
Now with all the negative stuff out of the way, this is what I would recommend. Ask a ton of questions and do a lot of research. One thing that was really hard for the group of guys I went with was realizing that your hunting Mulies not Whitetails very big difference. It was really hard for them to leave the timbers and hunt the open with no cover. Also bring your walking shoes, I walked 12 miles the first day and just about the same every other day we hunted. We all saw deer but I was the only one that had a chance to shoot something. The deer are not going to be easy to find and they are not going to be just off the road. There are lots of little pockets way past your eyes that you won't be able to see which is where they will be. If you find a group of deer stay with them and hope a buck shoes up. Also, Mule deer can hear a lot better than Whitetail and will pick up your noise over 250 yards away, I learned that from experience. :) Plan on shooting out to 300 yards and practice doing it. Not sure what muzzleloader you have but if it is a modern inline you should be able to do it with the right set up. Bring a couple pair of shoes and even a pair of tennis shoes or hiking shoes. Also bring a shotgun there was a lot of grouse where we were and we took a couple hours to hunt them and that was a blast!
There are deer out there but not as many from what I heard. It will be a lot harder to find them but remember if your willing to go a lot farther from the road then everyone else you will increase your odds! Also you can do a lot of driving on the public grounds on marked trails, I would recommend getting an idea of where your wanting to hunt then walk and walk some more. Your not going to see many deer from your truck. This is one thing of Nebraska I don't like, being able to drive on the public ground, it pushes all the deer to private ground and makes it worse in the end.
Just remember to research, research, and research! Good luck!
Thanks for the information guys I really appreciate it. I understand that the area is under tough times right now and the deer populations are not well. The group I'm going with is not afraid to work for an opportunity and know we will be putting on the miles. I will be taking my T/C Pro Hunter Endeavor with a Leupold Ultimate Slam scope on it. I have been shooting 150 grains of powder under a 250 gr T/C sabot. I am still researching and gathering information. Thanks,again.
Check out other parts of the west side of the state that have chunks of BLM and SWA's. I used to hunt the north west corner of the state and as stated by everyone else it is a zoo now. That secret couldn't stay secret forever. I found a new area that is good for archery and smoke pole season, the rifle season is a zoo. Pick an area that has a decent amount of public land and call the are biologist and warden. Ask a ton of questions and tell them you are willing to walk into areas. Good luck!
The sand hills area of Nebraska is good for mule deer and whitetails, but most of the best areas are on private land. Muzzle loader season is a good time to go, but it is cold. EHD hurt the deer population in 2012 and harvest was down about 30%. I hunted there the last three seasons and could really see the drop in deer numbers last year. This year the rain is better and there are still plenty of deer to hunt. I would suggest trying one of the public areas, but spend some time in the café/coffee shops asking about places to get on private ground. Most of the ranchers are glad to see deer killed and may let you hunt for much less than an outfitter, especially after the rifle hunters are gone.