Outdoor notes: Preliminary deer harvest lower than last year

LINCOLN, Neb. – 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.

Biologists also collected lymph nodes for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing from more than 1,500 deer in Panhandle and north-central units. Results should be available by the end of December. Game and Parks will only notify a hunter if his or her deer tested positive for CWD.

Archery and muzzleloader seasons close Dec. 31. The late antlerless season ends Jan. 15.

Hunters are reminded that mule deer does are protected in many management units and public lands across the state. Refer to the 2018 Big Game Guide for details.

Hunters who wish to donate venison can use the Hunters Helping the Hungry and Deer Exchange programs. Go to OutdoorNebraska.org for more details.

Family Bird Count set for Lake Minatare

MINATARE, Neb. — The public is invited to attend a special birdwatching event at Scout’s Rest Campground of Lake Minatare State Recreation Area.

The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are conducting the Family Christmas Bird Count at the lake on Dec. 15 from 9-11 a.m. The lake is closed from Oct. 15-Jan. 15 each year as part of the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge, but is opening for this exclusive event.

The Bird Count will be modeled after the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, an annual effort since 1900 that has challenged citizens to observe and record local bird populations during the holiday.

Amber Shiltz, Nebraska Wildlife Education Coordinator for the Conservancy, said the Lake Minatare event will allow families to connect with nature while learning about birds and their wintering habitats. Attendees will learn birdwatching tips, tally the species they observe, and be treated to snacks and hot cocoa.

The event will begin at the Scout Cabin. A Nebraska Park Entry Permit is required for vehicles but the event is open to the public free of charge.

For more information, contact Schiltz at amber.schiltz@birdconservancy.org or 402-310-6137.

Some ice fishing safety tips to keep in mind as lakes in the area start to freeze over

The recent blast of arctic air is growing ice on lakes and ponds over much of the area. Anglers are starting to get out for the popular early ice fishing season.

“Many of us can’t wait to get out on the ice each winter,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Ice fishing is a fun, inexpensive activity for anglers of all ages to get outdoors and avoid cabin fever.”

The DNR recommends a minimum of 4 inches of clear ice for fishing and at least 5 inches for snowmobiles and ATVs.

“Check ice thickness as you make your way to your favorite fishing spot,” Larscheid said. “Ice conditions change constantly and its thickness can vary across the lake. Trust your instincts — if the ice does not look right, don’t go out.”

Early ice offers an excellent chance for success. If fish are finicky, cut a series of holes and spend 15 minutes at each hole. Use small baits and light line.

Some other things to keep in mind when ice fishing:

» No ice is 100 percent safe.

» New ice is usually stronger than old ice.

» Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.

» Check ice thickness as you go out — there could be pockets of thin ice or places where ice recently formed.

» Avoid off-colored snow or ice. It is usually a sign of weakness.

» Bring along these basic items to help keep you safe: hand warmers, ice cleats, ice picks to help you crawl out of the water if you fall in, a life jacket, a floating safety rope, a whistle to call for help, a basic first aid kit and extra dry clothes.


LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission events and important dates in December. Get more event details at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org for a list of hunter education classes and boating safety classes.

Dec. 1 – Bobcat hunting and trapping season opens

Dec. 1 – Archery on Fire, Platte River State Park (SP), Louisville

Dec. 1 – Light Up the Fort, Fort Robinson SP, Crawford

Dec. 1 – Historical Christmas Dinner, Fort Robinson SP, Crawford

Dec. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 – Christmas at the Mansion, Arbor Lodge State Historical Park (SHP), Nebraska City

Dec. 1, 8, 15, 22 – Christmas in the Woods, Ponca SP, Ponca

Dec. 1-31 – Muzzleloader deer hunting season

Dec. 1-Jan. 15, 2019 – Cow elk hunting season, private and public land

Dec. 4 – Learn to Hunt Predators Workshop, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

Dec. 7-8, 14-15, 21-23 – Christmas at the Cody’s, Buffalo Bill Ranch SHP, North Platte

Dec. 8 – Nature’s Gifts: Decorations from the Great Outdoors, Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area (SRA), Gering

Dec. 8 – Classic Christmas, Eugene T. Mahoney SP, Ashland

Dec. 8 – Introduction to Handgun, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

Dec. 8-9 – DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) muzzleloader deer season

Dec. 8-16 – Boyer Chute NWR deer hunting

Dec. 9 – Women’s Youth Fishing Instructor Training, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

Dec. 9 – White-fronted goose hunting season, first segment closes

Dec. 15 – Christmas Bird Count, Indian Cave SP, Shubert

Dec. 16 – Snipe hunting season closes

Dec. 18 – Duck and coot hunting season closes in zone 2 and 4

Dec. 22 – Bighorn sheep hunting season closes

Dec. 25 – Duck and coot hunting season closes in Zone 1

Dec. 26 – Light goose hunting season, first segment closes

Dec. 29 – Winterfest, Ponca SP, Ponca

Dec. 31 – Archery antelope hunting season closes

Dec. 31 – Archery deer, Statewide Buck and Statewide Whitetail Buck hunting seasons close

Dec. 31 – Archery fishing for game fish closes

Dec. 31 – Underwater spearfishing season closes

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