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Goosing for the future down by Chimney Rock

Dogs retrieving a goose
Larry Olson’s 9-year-old yellow Lab Izzy retrieves a goose while puppy Roxie tags along. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

The calendar tells me that today is World Wetlands Day so it seems appropriate to thank those who work to conserve the lands that waterfowl and so many other species depend upon for survival.

Throughout the world, conservation-minded volunteers devote time and resources toward the preservation of wildlife and the lands they inhabit. Many of them channel their energy through conservation organizations, of which the recognized leader for wetlands is Ducks Unlimited.

One such person is Larry Olson of Crawford, a Sidney native who recently retired as a mail carrier in Chadron. Olson has long been known as one of the Panhandle’s most ardent hunters and anglers and now serves as chairman of the Pine Ridge chapter of Ducks Unlimited. This winter, as with most, he has also been busy with one of his greatest passions – waterfowl hunting in his leased pit along the North Platte Valley in eastern Scotts Bluff County.

Larry Olson with goose call
Larry Olson works a goose call. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Olson jokes that he spent “only” 32 days in the goose pit this season. Not too shabby, considering he makes a 90-plus mile drive from Crawford each time he does it.

Perhaps most remarkable about Olson’s hunting, though, is the number of people he has given the goose-hunting experience. According to the hunter’s log, there have been 54 other people accompany him in his pit just this season, free of charge.

“I like to give the experience of goose hunting to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go,” Olson said. “Some people can’t pay a lot of money to do this sort of thing and I like to give them the opportunity.”

My son, Sawyer, and I were excited to accept Olson’s invitation to hunt there last weekend. It was Sawyer’s first experience hunting from a goose blind and I cannot think of a better place to do it.

“Big group, flying low from Chimney Rock,” is one example of phrases Olson used as he worked his calls to bring geese within shooting distance. Can a goose-hunting experience get much more “Nebraska” than that?

Sawyer, 14, said he was amazed at the way birds came into the blind, his wide eyes reminding me of my first goose-hunting experience near Lisco in the late 1990s. “The way they came in was exhilarating,” he said.

An overcast sky and stiff north wind aided our mission most of the day and we managed to bag our limits, providing ample work for Olson’s 9-year-old Labrador retriever Izzy as Olson’s new recruit, 4-month-old Roxie, tagged alongside her.

I love the taste of Canada goose and cannot wait to make jerky and other treats from that meat.

Sawyer is now among about 35 people who have shot their first honkers at that location under Olson’s guidance. On top of that, the veteran hunter said he has led many more first-timers at other locations.

Olson has been busy working with other volunteers to plan the Pine Ridge chapter’s annual banquet Feb. 17 in Chadron, one of many such events across the state and nation that will raise money important to conserving waterfowl.

Perhaps Olson’s greatest contribution to the future of our wetlands and hunting heritage is the investment he has made at that goose pit, though. Based on the great time had there, I know of one young hunter who will likely become a future investor in Federal Duck Stamps. While doing so, he will surely remember “that first time at Larry’s pit.”

Chimney Rock and goose pit
The evening sun casts light on Chimney Rock as it stands above Larry Olson’s goose pit in the North Platte Valley. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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