Outdoor notes: Commission approves 2019 bighorn sheep season

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved a bighorn sheep season for 2019. It authorized one auction and one lottery permit for the season at its meeting Aug. 16 in Valentine.

In addition, the drawing for the 2018 bighorn sheep lottery permit was held, with David Hunter of Auburn the winner. There were 2,279 applications in the lottery. The 2018 season is Nov. 27 to Dec. 22.

The other business, the Commission:

— took public input regarding the potential listing and delisting of state threatened and endangered species within District 6 (north-central Nebraska). Staff presented information for delisting the North American river otter and listing the flathead chub, plains minnow, and western silvery minnow.

— approved a plan for future releases of the Salt Creek tiger beetle on its properties in the Little Salt Creek and Rock Creek drainages of southeastern Nebraska in order to advance the recovery and delisting of the species. The beetle is listed as endangered by Game and Parks, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

— accepted the Thomas C. Matter tract in Richardson County as a gift from the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation. The 153.11 acres in two tracts will be designated the Thomas C. Matter Wildlife Management Area.

— approved a permanent easement request from the City of Norfolk to place a sewer line across Game and Parks’ northeast district office land.

— approved hunting seasons in Niobrara, Indian Cave, Platte River, Ponca and Eugene T. Mahoney state parks and Fort Atkinson, Ash Hollow and Rock Creek Station state historical parks.

— approved the proposed budget request for fiscal years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.

In addition, a presentation was provided about the Sandhills Task Force, including its history and a review of some of its ongoing projects.

Staff also reported on fisheries projects ongoing on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. The objectives are to improve water quality and conditions for all fish and wildlife, remove carp, install barriers to prevent re-entry of carp and improve water management tools.

The Commission also heard a staff preview of fall upland game hunting. As part of the 2018 upland game forecast, staff provided preliminary results from the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey.

Additionally, a presentation was made about the potential use of falcons for abatement.

New video series, website, highlights importance of hunting

LINCOLN, Neb. – Hunting and shooting sports provide thousands of Nebraskans with safe, fun quality recreation with family and friends each year. A new video and website highlight the important role hunting plays in the traditions of many Nebraskans.

The video may be viewed at TakeUsHunting.org. The website also offers resources for those who wish to try hunting or shooting sports, as well as to experienced hunters who are interested in mentoring someone less experienced. The video was produced in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Foundation, Pheasants Forever, Powderhook, Oak Creek Sporting Club, the Big Game Conservation Association and Cabela’s.

“When I look back on my most memorable hunts, the harvest is always secondary to the memories made with the people who were there with me, and I think that is true for many hunters,” said Jeff Rawlinson, education manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Hunting is about spending time in nature, slowing down and spending quality time with the people you love.”

Hunting is an important part of Nebraska’s rich outdoor heritage, and of its economy. Each year, hunting has an $848 million economic impact in Nebraska. Additionally, the sale of hunting permits, along with excise taxes paid on firearms, ammunition and other hunting supplies, fund wildlife conservation in Nebraska and across the country.

Unfortunately, the number of hunters is in decline, and so is the valuable funding they provide for conservation efforts.

The future of conservation in the United States is dependent, at least in part, on the recruitment of new hunters, and Nebraska has joined states across the country to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters. Game and Parks encourages all hunters from casual hunters to season experts to take someone hunting this year.

TakeUsHunting.org provides information on workshops, facilities and programs designed for those new to hunting and shooting sports. It also provides resources for experienced hunters who want to ensure our hunting heritage remains strong.

For more information, visit TakeUsHunting.org.

Free wild game cooking seminar Oct. 4 in Lincoln

LINCOLN, Neb. – Award-winning blogger Hank Shaw will visit Lincoln on Oct. 4 for a seminar on how hunters can get more out of their wild game and fish through new cooking tips and techniques, with a focus on upland birds.

The free, two-hour seminar will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, 4703 N. 44th St.

Shaw also will offer signed copies of his latest cookbook, “Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail,” at a discount, and a portion of the proceeds will go to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever to support habitat restoration.

The James Beard Foundation awarded Shaw’s “Hunter Angler Gardener Cook” the Best Food Blog in 2013. Shaw also received the Bert Greene Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for Best Food Blog in 2010 and 2011.

Call the Outdoor Education Center at 402-471-6141 to reserve a spot in the seminar.

Larger channel catfish stocked for youth to catch

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is giving young anglers in eastern Nebraska an opportunity to catch some “bonus-sized” channel catfish.

Game and Parks on Aug. 14 stocked catfish ranging from 2 to 10 pounds in three lakes. There were 270 stocked in Omaha’s Wehrspann Lake, 50 in Lincoln’s Bowling Lake, and 50 in Papillion’s Lake Halleck.

“There are very limited numbers of fish this large that can be produced in Nebraska state fish hatcheries, not nearly enough to stock in a lot of waters across the state,” said Daryl Bauer, Game and Parks’ fisheries outreach program manager. “Therefore, waters that provide easy fishing opportunities for kids were selected for these stockings.”

Bauer suggests anglers who catch these catfish take quick photos on the water and then release them to test the skills of another angler.

“These fish should be willing to bite a variety of stinky catfish baits, and we would encourage anglers to give the kids an opportunity to catch these fish,” Bauer said. “Catfish are very releasable and can be caught again and again.”

Lake Wanahoo PATH sites open for reservations

LINCOLN, Neb. – The PATH program mentored youth hunting sites at Lake Wanahoo now may be reserved.

Lake Wanahoo, in Saunders County, has seven separate units totaling 1,067 acres available for mentored youth hunting.

To locate and reserve a site, and obtain a permission slip, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/PATH/ using the Internet Explorer browser. A mentor must possess a permission slip at all times of the youth hunt. Mentors may enroll for PATH up to five times annually.

PATH (Passing Along the Heritage) provides Nebraska youth and their mentors access to hunt on private lands and selected public lands. Only youth under age of 18 may hunt on these sites. The mentor is there to help the youth and ensure a safe hunting experience.

The program is made possible by a partnership between the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Shooting Sports Foundation and Nebraska landowners. The Lower Platte North Natural Resources District manages the habitat in cooperation with Game and Parks and Pheasants Forever.

Birds of Nebraska Online provides new resource for birders in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. – A new website makes it easier for birders to learn about the birds that inhabit Nebraska.

Birds of Nebraska Online, available at birdsofnebraska.org, offers information on status, distribution and temporal occurrence of 512 species that occur regularly or have been reported in Nebraska in a searchable format. Distribution maps are provided for species that occur regularly in the state. In addition, each species account includes detailed information that will be of interest to professional ornithologists and ardent birders.

The project, created by W. Ross Silcock and Joel G. Jorgensen, is hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The Birds of Nebraska Online is a complete revision of the author’s previous state bird reference, the Birds of Nebraska: Their Distribution and Temporal Occurrence, which was co-authored with the late Roger S. Sharpe and published as a book by the University of Nebraska Press in 2001.

“Our goal is to provide a detailed up-to-date synopsis of all of Nebraska’s species in a useable and useful format,” said Jorgensen, Game and Parks’ nongame bird program manager. “This website has allowed us to achieve that goal and makes the information readily available to anyone that wants to access it not only within the borders of Nebraska, but anywhere in the world.”

Nebraska classrooms encouraged to participate in Trout in the Classroom Program

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission invites the state’s second through 12th grade classrooms to participate in the Nebraska Trout in the Classroom Program.

This interdisciplinary, science-based program invites classrooms and schools to explore aquatic ecosystems, life cycles, water quality and the scientific process through raising trout eggs in their classroom.

Participating classrooms set up a cold-water aquarium in their classroom or school, then Game and Parks provides the rainbow trout eggs. Students care for their trout and the aquarium habitat by testing water quality, feeding their trout and monitoring growth and development.

As the program progresses, students see connections between their trout, water resources, the environment and themselves. Students learn first-hand how all aspects of a trout’s life cycle, food web and habitat are interconnected and impacted by the environment. This program provides schools with trout eggs, curriculum and technical assistance throughout the year.

Scholarships are available to provide assistance with some program costs. Program Participation applications and Scholarship applications are due Aug. 24, 2018.

Nebraska Trout in the Classroom is sponsored by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, with funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and Nebraska Trout Unlimited Chapter 710.

For more information, visit outdoornebraska.org/TroutInTheClassroom or contact Kate Sydik at katherine.sydik@nebraska.gov.

Summer fun planned for Labor Day weekend at Lewis and Clark SRA

LINCOLN, Neb. – Enjoy a Labor Day weekend filled with fun outdoor activities at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area (SRA) Sept. 1-2.

Get out on the water and see the park in a different light with kayaking and a lighted hayrack ride on Sept. 1. Sept. 2’s activities include an introductory archery course, Labor Day-themed arts and crafts, a fun educational program about pollinators, and a family movie in the evening.

A park permit is required of each vehicle entering the park. Fees apply to some activities.

For more information, call the park at 402-388-4169, and visit Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov to view more detail on the weekend’s activities.

Enjoy history reenactment Aug. 25-26 at Fort Hartsuff SHP

LINCOLN, Neb. – Enjoy a weekend of history reenactment Aug. 25-26 at central Nebraska’s Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park.

The weekend, themed Braves and Bluecoats: Indians and the Army on the Great Plains, will include reenactors portraying roles of the fort in the 1870s. There will be skirmishes, military drills, artillery demonstrations and cannon firing. Activities begin at 9 a.m. each day.

The park is located 6 miles southeast of Burwell in Valley County. A vehicle park entry permit is required. Contact the park for more information at 308-346-4715.

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