Deer bow hunter

Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage. Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management. For example, because their natural predators are gone, deer populations will often grow too large for the Refuge habitat to support. Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.


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.


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, sharp-tailed grouse, skunk, snipe, squirrel, teal, turkey, white-tailed deer, woodcock, and woodchuck.


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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 a USFWS application/permit form.

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

To find out more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations on Fort Niobrara NWR, contact the Refuge office.

Related Documents
2023 Fort Niobrara NWR Muzzleloader Hunt Application

Please fill out the application and email to with the subject as 2023 muzzleloader application.

Thank you!