Nebraska Deer:  An estimated population of 320,000 deer in 2019.  Numbers increasing in 2020.  About 343,000 deer in 2018, 340,000 in 2017, and 315,000 in 2016.  Severe drought, aggessive hunting, and a major EHD outbreak in 2012 and 2013 dramatically reduced the population which peaked around 2010.  Antlerless deer permits were reduced beginning in 2012 to help the herd recover.  Herd analysis at right.  Historical Nebraska deer harvest data and news archive.

Nebraska Deer News

...“Considering the increases in antlerless harvest in the southwest due to depredation complaints over the past few years, it’s not surprising harvest numbers would start trending downward at some point. In contrast, deer numbers in southeast Nebraska have been inching upward in recent years, and we’re seeing that in our harvest.” ..,

Nebraska Game and Parks releases firearm deer season statistics November 24, 2020 Nebraska City News-Press
... During the nine-day season, 42,024 deer were harvested, compared to 43,418 in 2019... Mule deer buck harvest decreased 17 percent, with 5,990 taken, compared to 7,201 in 2019. Whitetail buck harvest was down slightly, with 23,814 taken compared to 24,301 in 2019 ..,

Weather, numbers look good for start of deer season November 14, 2020 Nebraska, Omaha.com
... Hunters will find increased opportunities for antlerless deer in many parts of the state. The same goes for mule deer in southwest Nebraska.  "We've increased permits to manage those populations," ..,

Firearm deer opener to bring opportunities November 10, 2020 Nebraska, Norfolk Daily News
... Buck age structure is at or near all-time highs, with 50 percent of mule deer and 40 percent of whitetails aged 3 or older during the 2019 firearm season... “Deer numbers are good across most of the state, and there are plenty of permits available ..,

Deer Check Moves Online Only In 2020 In Light Of Coronavirus Concerns November 7, 2020 Nebraska, Sand Hills Express
... Because of COVID-19 concerns, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will not run check stations this firearm deer season. Instead, all deer will be checked in electronically via Telecheck...

Jewell Park to be closed for deer hunt October 21, 2020 Nebraska, Omaha.com
... This is the 10th consecutive year for this hunt at Jewell Park...

30 plead guilty so far in vast poaching case October 18, 2020 Nebraska, Omaha.com
... More than 100 people from states like New York, Wisconsin, Virginia and Utah paid $2,500 to $7,000 to take aim at big bucks ...  using bait, spotlights at night and other illegal tactics to guarantee their success...

... Droughts are thought to increase the incidence of hemorrhagic disease, which is particularly dangerous to white-tailed deer. In 2012, at least 6,000 deer died from the disease in Nebraska. The deer harvest during the 2012 November gun season fell by 25-30%, ...

... killed the mule deer, then recovered its skull, antlers and cape, which he took back to Missouri, and abandoned the carcass at the kill site, violating Nebraska law. ... To date, 30 defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced and ordered to pay a total of $353,048 in fines ...

Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge to issue special access permits for deer August 16, 2020 Nebraska, North Platte Telegraph
... For the first time, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Cherry County, Nebraska, will conduct a limited draw for all muzzleloader deer hunting in 2020...  restricted to primitive weapons only...

... conspirators provided guiding and outfitting services to hunting clients for the unlawful taking of no less than 97 big game animals or wild turkeys in violation of Nebraska State Law including 30 white-tailed deer, 34 mule deer, ...

... Population estimates indicated that there were 34 mountain lions in the Pine Ridge area from May to June 2019, which was down from 59 in a 2017 estimate ... The Niobrara Valley and Wildcat Hills are also home to mountain lions, but estimates are not kept for those areas..,

Commission approves deer, antelope and elk hunting recommendations May 10, 2020 Nebraska, Nebraska City News Press
... Elk – Bull permits will increase 25% and antlerless permits will increase 40%. The antlerless season will be extended ...

City folk: Ready, aim May 7, 2020 Nebraska City News Press
... unanimously approved a resolution to establish an urban deer management zone in the city. That allows for a controlled hunt ...

Commission to consider deer, antelope and elk hunting recommendations April 28, 2020 Nebraska, Scottsbluff Star Herald
... Many units have seen bag limit and permit quota changes to accomplish management goals and a few units will see a bonus antlerless white-tailed deer added to their regular and season choice permits...

Mountain lions are here, and here to stay March 19, 2020 Nebraska, Beatrice Daily Sun
... The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) has a map showing where mountain lions sightings have been documented in the state... mountain lions need food and deer are one of their main food sources...

... He will face up to a year imprisonment and a $100,000 fine at his sentencing in August... engaged in hunting activities, which included hunting over bait, hunting from a public roadway at night and hunting with prohibited weapons ...

... State Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango introduced Legislative Bill 126, which, as amended, would allow qualifying landowners up to four free permits to hunt deer on their property during a five-day period prior to the normal firearm deer hunting season...

Commission reports results of chronic wasting disease tests January 7, 2020 Nebraska, Norfolk Daily News
... Game and Parks conducted chronic wasting disease sampling at deer check stations in northwestern and northeastern Nebraska ... There were 169 positives from 1,803 deer sampled ..  during the firearm deer season ..,

 Bull elk made Clearwater farm his home for years December 11, 2019 Nebraska, Norfolk Daily News
... a bull elk that showed up in Antelope County during the summer of 2006 when he was about 2½ years old and stayed. “The Elk,” as he was known, spent the rest of his life in this neighborhood ...  “Everybody wanted to see him... Even the school bus driver would make a point to go down a different road just to see if they could catch a glimpse of him.” ...

November firearm deer harvest slightly higher than last year December 6, 2019 Nebraska, BUCKMASTERS
... Deer harvest during the 2019 November firearm season in Nebraska is 2% ahead last year ... Mule deer buck harvest decreased 9% ... Whitetail buck harvest is up almost 8% ...

Early checked deer numbers up 8% statewide November 26, 2019 Nebraska, Norfolk Daily News
... “While there is still some corn standing in the fields, the nice weather contributed to lots of hunters getting into the field and harvesting deer.” ...

Preliminary numbers show deer harvest is up this season November 18, 2019 Nebraska, Omaha.com
... after the opening weekend of Nebraska’s firearm deer season show that the statewide harvest is up about 8% compared to 2018...

...  only 7% of elk permits were approved this year ... “We issued the 50 this time, because we got a demand from a senator that we needed to respond immediately to really severe damage occurring,’’ ...

... Hunters killed about 58,000 deer statewide last year, below the highs of the mid-to-late 2000s. In 2008, the harvest eclipsed 80,000.  Meduna expects numbers this year to be comparable to last year, with higher totals in the Frenchman and Loup East deer management units..,

Pine Ridge researchers gain knowledge about the cougar October 29, 2019 Nebraska, Norfolk Daily News
... Along with so many other species, cougars disappeared from Nebraska with Euro-American settlement. Not only did early settlers slay predators at every opportunity, more importantly they killed the predators’ prey. The decimation of deer and other prey species in the late 1800s and early 1900s surely made Nebraska a less desirable place for mountain lions to live..,

Making the Game and Parks Commission more responsive October 17, 2019 Nebraska, McCook Daily Gazette, State Sen. Dan Hughes, Dist. 44 news
... we have made a clear statement that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission needs to be more responsive to the complaints of landowners who have large herds of big game destroying their crops and pastures...

... Mammoths toppled trees, compacted soil and, by eating and excreting masses of vegetation, transported nutrients around ecosystems ... The loss of the mammoth effectively doomed the mammoth steppe ... "If you're an open-habitat species [deer] that used to occupy the mammoth steppe ... you might inhabit, say, open grassland areas that are surrounded by forests," ... that meadow is much smaller ...

NGPC reminds public of landowner resources for wildlife damage September 15, 2019 Nebraska, North Platte Telegraph
... The commission is working to increase antlerless deer harvest by 30% in the Frenchman West Unit in southwest Nebraska. To reach this goal, the commission will increase antlerless deer permits by 25% and offer an increased number of damage permits...

... Addition of a second antlerless whitetail bonus tag in the Loup East ... due to high densities... Shift of deer permits in Pine Ridge from Any Deer to Any Whitetail in response to public reported and research recorded mule deer deaths over winter and spring...

... There have been dead deer observed after the blizzard; diet, malnutrition and disease seeming to contribute to the loss, NGPC says. However, good numbers of deer still are being seen in many areas..,

Farmers should be reimbursed for big game crop damage March 28, 2019 Nebraska, McCook Daily Gazette 
...this time G&P knows there are several senators who think G&P should be paying for the damages caused by the game they are managing.  G&P makes millions of dollars from marketing our game species ...

Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland to open for 2019 season March 30 March 27, 2019 Nebraska, KFXL Fox Nebraska
... Visitors can get an up-close look at deer, Sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans and bison, the largest terrestrial and heaviest land animals in North America...

Nebraska mule deer receive monitoring devices March 8, 2019, 1011now
...  a helicopter capture crew caught them ... should contribute broadly to understanding factors that limit mule deer populations across their range ...

Bill moving forward to combine two agencies February 7, 2019 Nebraska, McCook Daily Gazette
...  combines the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Nebraska Energy Office (NEO) into one state agency ... There seems to be little regard for the damage caused to landowners by the state’s deer population and by deer hunters themselves...

Bill could give farmers first shot at deer February 2, 2019 Nebraska, 
North Platte Telegraph
... would give landowners in Nebraska free firearm permits to hunt deer on their land for seven days before the regular firearm season ... Currently the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission issues landowners permits at a reduced rate ...

New farm bill will boost conservation efforts in Nebraska January 4, 2019 Scottsbluff Star Herald
... increases acreage available for the Conservation Reserve Program to 27 million acres, up from the current 24 million... pays ... for planting perennial cover on environmentally sensitive cropland and is important in protecting habitat for pheasants, quail, deer...

Chronic wasting disease spreads December 27, 2018 Nebraska, North Platte Telegraph
... This year, deer and elk taken from north central and northwest management areas were tested. Eleven percent of the 1,208 deer tested were positive for the disease. However, of the 117 elk tested, only one tested positive and eight were unknown...

CWD detected for first time in deer in Valley, Keya Paha Counties December 17, 2018 Nebraska, Omaha
... chronic wasting disease ... access the positive results posted at OutdoorNebraska.gov/cwd/... 131 positives from 1,208 deer sampled ...

Deputy Rescues Deer - December 17, 2018 Nebraska


Big game meetings scheduled across Nebraska December 4, 2018 Nebraska, 1011now
... Biologists will explain and take questions on several topics, including deer management, deer damage and depredation permits, antlerless harvest, trophy management and diseases ...

Preliminary deer harvest lower than last year November 27, 2018 Nebraska, Game and Parks News 
... Preliminary deer harvest in Nebraska is 5 percent behind last year’s pace. From Sept. 1 through Nov. 26, there were 47,532 deer checked, compared to 49,923 in 2017.  Mule deer buck harvest decreased slightly, with 8,575 taken, compared to 8,609 in 2017. This is still the second highest recorded mule deer buck harvest on record bodes well for Nebraska. The average age of bucks is also very good, with 59 percent of bucks estimated at age 3 or older.  Whitetail buck harvest is up slightly, with 26,525 adult whitetail bucks harvested compared to 25,489 in 2017. The average age of bucks also increased, with 41 percent of whitetail bucks estimated at age 3 or older..,

Checked Deer Numbers Down November 20, 2018 Nebraska, WNAX 
... checked numbers are down 10% ... 

... The animal was found laying next to a discarded mattress ... it’s not uncommon to find a beheaded buck disposed within city limits during this time of year ...

... statewide harvest numbers are down about 10 percent compared to the 2017 opening weekend of Nebraska’s firearm season...

... Nebraska’s deer population hasn’t yet rebounded totally from a disease outbreak in 2011-12. That’s reflected in the deer harvest numbers, which used to number more than 3,000 a year before plunging in 2012..,

... deer numbers look good. Many areas have recovered from the large die-off in 2012 from epizootic hemorrhagic disease... Mule deer prefer more open areas in the western part of the state ..,

... CWD was first discovered in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County. Since 1997, Game and Parks staff have tested nearly 51,000 deer and found 499 that tested positive. CWD has been found in 40 Nebraska counties ...
     State checking elk carcasses for chronic wasting disease September 8, 2018 Nebraska, Washington Times
...  staffers at check stations will be asking hunters to allow removal of lymph nodes from elk carcasses ...

... deer’s cries of distress ... Three fawns, thought to be only about a week old, had fallen into an old well that sits on the property of a neighbor...  neighbor, who lay on his belly and scooped them out ...

... Starting this year, fees of $5.50 for antelope, $7 for deer and $10 for elk are due at the time of application...

... the Pine Ridge ... natural habitat to the lions...  the population of deer in the area is low. Deer make up 75-80 percent of the mountain lions diets.  “Our biggest concern is there’s nothing for them to eat and they’re going to start eating on our livestock heavier ...

Mountain lions calling Pine Ridge home again March 28, 2018 Nebraska, Bloomer Advance
... One of the last reliable reports of mountain lion in Nebraska occurred in 1903 near Crawford ... The first confirmed report of a cougar in modern times came in 1991, when tracks and a deer kill were discovered in Dawes County and a female was killed in Sioux County..,

Game and Parks talks mountain lions March 22, 2018 Nebraska, North Platte Telegraph
... settlers eliminated mountain lions, turkeys and most of the deer from the state by the 1890s. The first confirmed sighting in modern times was in the Pine Ridge in 1991.  The majority of the land in Nebraska is not suitable for establishment of mountain lion populations ..,

... Bones of a white-tailed deer lay scattered under a large cottonwood tree ... Looking up ... the bony carcass of a deer stashed on a branch about 7 feet off the ground..,

... confirmation of a mountain lion Thursday in Thurston County, Nebraska...  a deer that was killed was indicative of mountain lion actions..,

... We found that forest habitat, riparian habitat, road density, time
integrated NDVI, and terrain roughness influence mule deer harvest in Nebraska.
According to our model, mule deer show a significant preference for less forested, more rugged terrain (often rangelands), that are less fragmented and developed, based on harvest density...

In February of 2018 biologists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission captured mule deer as part of a collaborative research project on population dynamics and behavior in southwest Nebraska. The broad goal of the study is to understand the factors limiting mule deer populations in the state. To accomplish this, the research team captured female deer to deploy tracking devices to study mortality, reproduction, movements, and habitat use. - February 20, 2018


Sampling of deer results in 203 positives for chronic wasting disease February 5, 2018 Nebraska, The Best Mix 105.5
... chronic wasting disease in deer has been detected for the first time in the southwestern Nebraska counties ...  203 positives from 1,807 deer sampled ... CWD was first discovered in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County..,

A different deer hunt, shed February 4, 2018 Nebraska, Lincoln Journal Star
... time to hunt for shed deer antlers.  Beginning in late December and continuing through April, white-tailed and mule deer shed their antlers for regrowth purposes in Nebraska. Many deer drop their antlers in February and March...

Panhandle reports increased deer harvest January 24, 2018 Nebraska, magazine.outdoornebraska.gov
... a 3.3 percent increase. The Panhandle’s overall number of harvested deer consists of 4,717 mule deer and 3,355 whitetails... The populations have improved from 2012 when drought and disease took a toll...

... an estimated 59 adult and kitten mountain lions in the rugged Pine Ridge in northwest Nebraska last May and June ... population ranged from 22 to 33 when Nebraska held its inaugural mountain lion hunting season in 2014...  their return to the state was confirmed in 1991..,

... This permit would have lower fees than the statewide buck-any deer permit because the restricted permit hunting area would exclude some areas for mule deer harvest... fees would be $125 for residents and $695 for nonresidents...

Nebraska Data:  Based on reported deer population estimates from 2015 there were 313,000 deer, about 200,000 whitetails and 112,500 mule deer.  Harvest data and comments for 2016 through 2018 indicate a stable to moderately increasing population with an increase of 20,000 mule deer in 2017 and 2,500 mule deer in 2018 resulting in the estimate of 315,000, 340,000 and 343,000, including some whitetail increase.  Floods and blizzards in 2018-19 took some toll on deer.  In 2020 "deer numbers are good across most of the state, and there are plenty of permits available."  Increased antlerless permits in the southwest appear to have reduced the population.  Floods and blizzards in 2018-19 took some toll on deer with the estimated mule deer population falling by 15,000, reducing the population estimate to 320,000.
     Populations rebounded from the drought and EHD outbreak of 2012 and 2013. By 2018 most areas had recovered.  A similar population in 2019. In 2017 whitetail populations were stable and mule deer populations were higher.  Reduced whitetail permits and increased mule deer doe permits for 2017.   One estimate put the 2017 total population at 70 percent of the 2010 population.  The mule deer population trended up for three years into 2016 with reduced hunting pressure.  Higher whitetail anterless permits in 2016 to limit growth.
     Restrictions on antlerless permits beginning in 2012 were implemented to increase the population. The population peaked in 2010 . Disease, hunting, and the 2011 flood reduced the number.  GPC has focused on increasing mule deer populations, in part because they are more acceptable to farmers. An increase in antlerless permits in 2016 designed to stabilize the whitetails. Mule deer are mostly in the higher, drier western counties and whitetails dominate in the east. 
Deer Population Estimates
(2015 is the sum of
whitetails and mule)

Total Deer
Year    Estimate
2015   313,000
2009   325,000
(300,000-350,000
other data suggest
closer to 350,000,
this is a peak year)

2007    325,000
(300,000-350,000)

2005    400,000
(high estimate)
2003    250,000
"at least"

Whitetails
Year   Estimate
2015   200,000
2009   265,000
2005   200,000

Mule Deer Population
Year ReportedReported to WAFWA
Link to SourceEstimate
2014*
2015
77,000

2015*
2016
112,500

2016*
2017
112,500

2017*
2018
132,500

2018*
2019
135,000

2019*
2020
120,000

*State estimates from most
recent year available. Appear
to be previous year estimates.

Other estimates for mule deer
2003    50,000
     Restrictions on anlterless deer permits in 2015 increased the population. The 2014 whitetail deer population was down by about 36 percent from 2011.  The 2013 deer population was about the same as in 2003.  An estimated 77,000 mule deer in 2015, but the number of whitetails vs. mule deer is hard to estimate since hunters can take either and harvest data is used for the estimate. 
     The herd was hit hard by epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and drought in 2012, killing an estimated third of the whitetail population.  Half the herd are thought to have died in Dodge and Saunders counties.   Aggressive hunting leading up to 2012, with a big increase in the take of whitetail does, also brought the numbers down (see figure of harvest data below).   EHD in 2012 and 2013 took about 60 percent of the deer in the north central area. A parasitic, meningeal worm, has also reduced deer numbers. The 2014 harvest was about 50,580 down from the peak of 88,034 in 2010. 
    The Game Commission reduced antlerless deer tags in 2013, an effort to boost the deer population. Brain worm is blamed for some of the mule deer decline. Deer permit sales in 2012 declined 13 percent to 122,214. Total deer harvest fell 30 percent to 60,548. (Source).  
     Estimates:   An estimate of 300,000 whitetails in 2016.  The 2017 total population at 70 percent of the 2010 population.  A 2015 whitetail estimate of   200,000 in 2015 and 2005.  Whitetails estimated to be 265,000 in 2009.  A total listed by the state at  300,000 to 350,000 in 2009.  One estimate puts the total deer population at 300,000 to 350,000 around 2007, also an estimate of 300,000 A 2005 estimate of 400,000 deer. In 2003 an estimate of at least 50,000 mule deer and 200,000 whitetails 35,000 and 40,000 mule deer each year during the early 1990s.  "whitetail population each fall has been estimated at between 150,000 to 180,000 animals" (undated)    
     EHD  The 2012 outbreak killed more than 100,000 deer in the state, about 30 percent of the deer population.  An implied population estimate of more than 333,000 deer for 2012.
     Chronic wasting disease was first discovered in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County and by 2016 spread to 30 counties.  The first positives in southeast Nebraska in early 2017 with 203 positives of 1,807 deer sampled during the 2017 gun season.  Into 2018, a total of 499 positives in 40 Nebraska counties.  During the 2019 gun season there were 169 positives from 1,803 deer sampled.   

 History  Deer were common to the state prior to the late 1800s but unregulated hunting and agricultural development nearly wiped them out.  Deer were nearly extinct in Nebraska by 1900.  The Nebraska Game and Fish report for 1901-02 estimated the mule deer population at 50 [page 5].  In 1907 deer hunting was prohibited, but the recovery took decades. The first modern deer season was in 1945 when 275 mule deer and 2 whitetails were taken. The deer population rose from the mid-1990's through 2011 when the Game Commission issued more permits and implemented some Earn-a-Buck programs to encourage shooting does to reduce the population. The drought of 2012 and resulting EHD outbreak which killed thousands of deer was the worst outbreak since the 1970's. An estimated 50,000 mule deer and 200,000 whitetails in 2003. More deer history Big Game History
     Mule deer are mostly found in the western half of the state where there are open grasslands, the Sandhills, Panhandle, and southwest. Whitetails are found more often in the east along rivers and in forested and edge habitat.  Whitetail densities have been to 30 deer per square mile in some areas.
    Source of  Harvest Data:  Nebraska 2019 Deer Harvest Report 

    Cougar ( Mountain Lion) hunting was opened in 2014, with 22 cougars occupying the Pine Ridge area. Mountain lions were hunted to extinction in the 1800's with the last confirmed sighting in 1903 but are native to the state, returning around 1991. In 2017 an estimated 59 lions. Sightings.  The 2020 population estimate was lowered and hunting reduced for 2021.
     Wolves, a few. One killed near Spaulding in 2003. DNA tests showed it came from Minnesota-Michgan-Wisconsin area. In 1913 one killed near Oconto.


Nebraska Deer