NWTF Conservation Spotlight: Nebraska
Kevin Jech enjoys hunting wild turkeys, but seldom squeezes the trigger any more. A turkey hunter for 14 years, these days he prefers to use his turkey calling skills to bring the big birds in for other hunters.
"I like calling for others because it lets me pay closer attention to turkeys to see how they react to my calling," said Jech, the National Wild Turkey Federation's (NWTF) Nebraska State Chapter president. "It's also wonderful to see peoples' faces when they get a turkey I call in, especially if it's their first bird."
Jech started hunting turkeys in 1990, when Nebraska's turkey population was largely confined to the northwest part of the state. Because northwest Nebraska contains large tracts of timber, (once believed to be the only habitat in which turkeys could thrive), the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) focused their initial wild turkey restoration efforts in the area.
These first releases, conducted in 1959, brought wild turkeys back to a state that hadn't seen them in 44 years. Today, partly because of research funded by the NWTF, biologists now know turkeys can survive in a variety of habitats, and expanded relocation efforts have helped Nebraska's wild turkeys populate the entire state.
A close relationship with the NWTF is helping the NGPC build on this success. In 2003 alone, the NWTF contributed more than $18,000 of Wild Turkey Super Fund for habitat improvements on Nebraska's 800,000 acres of public hunting land. In addition, the Nebraska State Chapter spent more than $14,000, including a $5,000 gift to the 4-H Shooting Sports program, to protect our hunting heritage and the role it plays in conservation.
Bob Johnston, an NWTF board member from Nebraska and the first president of the Missouri River Longbeards Chapter, is now seeing wild turkeys in areas he had never seen them before. This success translates into more opportunities for hunters.
"Turkeys have spread to every part of the state," Johnston said. "This helped us convince the Game & Parks Commission that we needed a more hunter friendly system for determining turkey seasons."
Nebraska now guarantees two wild turkey permits for every licensed hunter who applies. New regulations divide the state into two management units, the East Missouri unit and the West unit. Hunters can choose either two permits from the West unit, or one permit from the East Missouri unit and one from the West unit.