The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will accept applications for one 2024 bighorn sheep lottery permit beginning April 15.

A $29 nonrefundable application fee must accompany each application. Only Nebraska residents 12 years and older are eligible for the lottery. It is unlawful to submit more than one application in a calendar year. Residents may receive only one permit in a lifetime. The permit is not transferable.

The application period begins at 1 p.m. Central time April 15 and ends Aug. 2. Applications will be received at Game and Parks offices until 5 p.m. or, if applying at, through 11:59 p.m. CT Aug. 2.

The permit will be drawn in August, and the successful applicant will be notified.

The 2024 bighorn sheep season is Dec. 3-22.

8 opportunities for enjoying the outdoors this spring

By Renae Blum

Spring is here — and with it, opportunities of all kinds to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation or the chance to learn new skills, you can find it at a Nebraska state park. Here are some activities you can start enjoying now.


Take in the fresh breezes and spring colors on a hiking trail. Nebraska’s state parks have a variety of trails, including gentle walking paths and rugged mountain biking trails. If you want to watch birds during your trek, visit Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area in western Nebraska, which boasts a diverse range of species. The park also has a nature center perfect for a break after your walk.

Other parks with beautiful trails in spring include Chadron State Park, with its ponderosa pine scenery, and Niobrara State Park in northeastern Nebraska, where you can catch stunning sunset views on the bluffs overlooking the river. Find more trails at

Wildlife Watching

Birding is a great spring activity, as Nebraska is a prime spot during spring migration. Opportunities include wild turkeys and hundreds of songbirds returning to the state from their winter homes.

Other spring wildlife watching opportunities include red fox kits, which are usually born in March and April and will emerge from their dens around four to five weeks after birth. You can also hear frogs calling statewide anywhere there is water, and many snake species will begin emerging from their dens in April, as well. Bring some binoculars, keep a healthy distance, be patient and you might see some amazing sights.


Spring is go-time for anglers. Everybody wants to be out fishing in April and May as there are so many opportunities, especially as the water warms up.

While you can find good fishing for just about any species, crappie and walleye will be especially favorable. Crappie can be found statewide in shallow water where they’re easy to access. As for walleye, they’re “king” in May and June, said fisheries biologist Daryl Bauer. Seek out large reservoirs, like those in the central and western part of the state, for the best walleye fishing.

See the 2024 Fishing Forecast at for more tips on where to fish for these species and many others.


Camping in spring allows you to beat the summer rush and avoid the heat. While you can find great camping at many Nebraska state parks, division administrator Bob Hanover pointed out a few that are particularly good this time of year.

One is Memphis State Recreation Area, located between Lincoln and Omaha. This small, lesser-known park offers a quiet atmosphere to relax in, a recently renovated lake, and a large campground with dozens of mature shade trees.

Hanover also recommended parks located by Nebraska’s southwestern reservoirs, such as Medicine Creek, Enders and Swanson state recreation areas, for a back-to-nature atmosphere. Louisville State Recreation Area in the east is another good pick in the spring, before summer crowds arrive.

Before you visit, call ahead to check on water service; water remains off in most parks until the threat of freeze has passed. Find contact information at


If you’re looking to unwind for an afternoon lunch with friends or family, look no farther than your closest state park. By May, you can enjoy great picnicking in every park area; all have picnic tables, and most have shade and picnic shelters.

Hanover especially recommended Victoria Springs State Recreation Area, a peaceful spot near the Sandhills with plenty of Nebraska history, and Windmill State Recreation Area, located between Grand Island and Kearney. Both are quiet areas where you can enjoy nature in a calm setting. 

Look for Wildflowers

Spring is an opportune time to look for wildflowers because they’re easy to spot; in summer, they’re competing with tall grasses and may be harder to see.

Botanist Gerry Steinauer recommends looking for violets in spring; a range of species can be found across the state. You can also look for prairie daisies in the west, at places like Fort Robinson State Park and Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. Other spring wildflowers include jack-in-the-pulpit, mayapple, bloodroot and prairie ragwort. Learn more in Jon Farrar’s book: “Field Guide to Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains.”

Disc Golf

Ready for a relaxing afternoon enjoying nature with family and friends? Try some disc golf. Hanover recommended several state parks for this; one is Fort Kearny State Recreation Area — easily accessible off the interstate, with a nice course and good camping.

Indian Cave State Park is another choice spot, with gorgeous springtime scenery and mushroom hunting opportunities. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park also offers a nice disc golf course and many other activities for guests. For a full list of state parks offering disc golf, filter the interactive map at  

Archery and Shooting Ranges

Archery and shooting sports are a fun way to challenge yourself and learn new skills. Nebraska offers several facilities with equipment, instruction and a family-friendly environment.

Turpin Outdoor Education Center in Lincoln is open year-round, with regularly scheduled programming for both newbies and advanced students. Platte River State Park’s Outdoor Heritage Education Complex opens in May, as does the Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex. The new Kearny Outdoor Education Complex is open on weekends from April 6 to May 12, and then on weekdays through Sept. 16.

You also can practice on your own at Ponca State Park’s Eric Wiebe Shooting Complex or nearly 20 outdoor archery ranges, one shotgun range and two rifle ranges across the state. See details at

Learn more about the parks mentioned here, and buy a park entry permit to gain entrance, at

New campgrounds ready for reservations at Sherman, Box Butte

Campers may begin making reservations beginning April 8 at newly developed campgrounds at Sherman Reservoir and Box Butte Reservoir state recreation areas.

At Sherman Reservoir SRA near Loup City, West Ridge Campground has been expanded and now has 61 campsites with Electric Plus (30/50 amp) service. Reservations are needed for half the sites; the other half are first-come, first-served. 

For Box Butte Reservoir SRA near Hemingford, the new campground includes 20 Electric Plus (30/50 amp) campsites as well as a new shower house and dump station. Half of the campsites are available for reservations; the other half are first-come, first-serve. Campers should be mindful of newly planted grass that the park is trying to establish.

Reservations for May 1 and after can be made starting at 9 a.m. Central time April 8 at, the Reserve America Reservation App or by calling the Nebraska Game and Parks Call Center at 402-471-1414.

Nebraska’s Capital Maintenance Fund, which was established by the Legislature in 2016 to help preserve public outdoor recreation facilities and parklands, is a large contributor to these projects, along with Nebraska Game and Parks’ funds generated from user fees of the state park system.