Hunting and Fishing at Fort Niobrara NWR

White tail Bow Hunter

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is a special place for wildlife and people. As you hunt and fish, please observe the regulations to help you enjoy and protect the rich diversity of habitats and wildlife found here.

General public use regulations can be found on the Rules and Regulations page.

The Refuge headquarters and visitor center is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. **Note: due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Fort Niobrara NWR office and visitor center may be closed. Please contact the office at 402-376-3789 for updated office hours.**


 

Hunting 

State hunting regulations, seasons, shooting hours, bag limits, and license requirements apply to all hunting on the Refuge. Additional refuge-specific regulations may be found in the Fort Niobrara NWR Hunting and Fishing Brochure.

 

Open Areas

Hunting is allowed on Refuge lands located North and West of the Niobrara River (approximately 5,100 acres). The Niobrara River is not open for hunting. Hunting is prohibited within 200 yards of any public use facility.

 

Species

The following species are open for hunting on the Refuge (see additional species-specific regulations below): badger, bobcat, coot, coyote, crow, dark geese, dove, duck, elk, fox, furbearer, greater prairie chicken, hare, long-tailed weasel, light geese, merganser, mink, mule deer, opossum, partridge, pheasant, porcupine, prairie dog, pronghorn antelope, quail, rabbit, raccoon, rail, sharptail grouse, skunk, snipe, squirrel, teal, turkey, white-tailed deer, woodcock, and woodchuck.

 

Access

Hunters must park in designated parking areas, as identified on the brochure map, to access the Refuge for hunting. Gates opened to enter the hunting area from designated access points must be closed immediately after passing through.

Access to the Refuge from private property is prohibited.

Hunters may access the Refuge 2 hours before legal sunrise until 2 hours after legal sunset.

Hunting access is limited to walking, horseback, and boat.

The Refuge allows canoes, kayaks, and float tubes capable of carrying no more than four people on the Niobrara River below Cornell Dam. All public entry is prohibited upstream of Cornell Dam. All River users must purchase a wristband at the kiosk located at the Refuge launch area as indicated on the map.

Horses are allowed within the Refuge hunt area. Horse trailers may only be parked at the four designated horse trailer parking access areas identified on the map. Horse access to the Wilderness Area is only permitted via the Wilderness Overlook or the Refuge corrals/Buffalo Bridge.

 

Big Game Hunting (white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope)

Only state-permitted archery and muzzleloader weapons can be used to take elk, deer, and pronghorn antelope.

The use of centerfire or rimfire rifles is prohibited.

A special access permit is required for muzzleloader deer hunting. See the section “Muzzleloader Deer Hunting” for more information.

The use of Landowner Hunting permits is not allowed on Refuge lands.

Portable tree stands and ground blinds can be used from August 16 through January 31.

Permanent tree stands/blinds, nails, screw-in steps, or other items that penetrate the outer bark of a tree are prohibited.

Tree marking/flagging and the use of trail cameras is prohibited.

Game carts or any other mechanized device used for retrieving game or transportation are prohibited in the Wilderness Area portion of the Refuge that is open for hunting.

Hunters may access the Refuge 2 hours before legal sunrise until 2 hours after legal sunset.

 

Upland Game, Waterfowl, Migratory Bird, Small Game, and Turkey Hunting

State-permitted shotguns shooting non-toxic shot, archery, and muzzleloader weapons can be used for badger, bobcat, coot, crow, dark geese, dove, duck, fox, furbearer, greater prairie chicken, grouse, long-tailed weasel, light geese, mink, opossum, partridge, pheasant, quail, rabbit and hare, raccoon, rail, skunk, snipe, squirrel, teal, turkey, woodcock, coyote, porcupine, prairie dog, and woodchuck.

Possession of toxic shot in the field is prohibited.

The use of centerfire or rimfire rifles is prohibited.

Hunters may access the Refuge 2 hours before legal sunrise until 2 hours after legal sunset.

Shooting hours for coyote, porcupine, prairie dog, woodchuck, and state-defined huntable furbearers are ½ hour before legal sunrise to ½ hour after legal sunset. Shooting hours for all other huntable species follow state regulations.

Trapping is prohibited.

 

Muzzleloader Deer Hunting

All Muzzleloader deer hunting during the November firearm hunting season and the December muzzleloader season is by special permit only. Interested hunters must submit the following USFWS application/permit form .

The application period for Muzzleloader hunting is August 15 through 4:30pm CDT on September 15.

 A lottery drawing will be conducted and 12 access permits will be issued for each of the following date ranges: Nov. 14-22, Dec. 1-8, Dec. 9-16, Dec. 17-24, Dec. 25-31.

Successful applicants must possess a valid Nebraska deer permit and may utilize any deer permits that are valid for muzzleloader weapons in the Kaya Paha Unit.

In addition to meeting statewide harvest reporting and to be eligible for next year’s Refuge hunting season, permitted hunters must complete a Big Game Harvest Report (FWS form 3-2359) and return it to the Refuge by February 15, regardless of whether you hunted on the Refuge or were successful.

 

Fishing

Fishing is permitted in accordance with State regulations.

Fishing is allowed on the Minnechaduza Creek and along the Niobrara River downstream from Cornell Dam. All public access is prohibited upstream from Cornell Dam.

Fishing access is allowed from legal sunrise to legal sunset.

Collecting baitfish, frogs, and turtles is prohibited.

The Refuge allows canoes, kayaks, and float tubes capable of carrying no more than four people on the Niobrara River below Cornell Dam. All public entry is prohibited upstream of Cornell Dam. All River users must purchase a wristband at the kiosk located at the Refuge launch area as indicated on the map.

 

· Big Game Harvest Report 

· 2020 Fort Niobrara Muzzleloader Hunt Application 

· Fort Niobrara Hunting and Fishing Brochure