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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.

Fort Robinson pond project bringing excitement

Among the Panhandle’s best fishing assets are the opportunities in and around Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford. With the 22,000-acre park’s 11 fishponds and coldwater streams in and near there, anglers can seek everything from warm water species such as largemouth bass, catfish and crappie to all species of trout found in Nebraska. Furthermore, the buttes and pine-studded bluffs provide a beautiful scenic backdrop for photos of your catch. As good as the fishing may be, it is sure …

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Whitney Lake briefly closing to boating Sunday

CRAWFORD, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will close Whitney Lake Wildlife Management Area to boats and other watercraft during a 3½-hour training exercise of the Nebraska Wildland Fire Academy on Sunday, April 22. As part of the exercise, firefighters will use a helicopter with a hanging bucket to pick up water from the lake between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The Commission is closing the lake during that time to ensure public safety. Although boating will not …

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Teeming with Turkeys

Merriam's Wild Turkey

Nebraskans have become accustomed to seeing wild turkeys from border to border but it has not always been that way. When I was growing up in southwestern Nebraska in the 1970s and ‘80s, it was much more of a rarity to see them. Similar to many wildlife species, wild turkeys are native to Nebraska but factors related to Euro-American settlement wiped them out of the state in the early 1900s. Along with a lot of other wildlife, though, turkeys have …

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The dance of the sharptail

Sharp-tailed grouse

If you travel far at all on many of our dirt roads, you have a good chance of a seeing one or more sharp-tailed grouse – that is, if you can pick them out with their brown, black and buff camouflaged bodies. Sharptails, popular game birds in Nebraska, are at home on much our landscape, enjoying a mix of open grassland with some trees and shrubs. This is certainly the time of year that grouse are most fun to watch. …

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Pollinators all the buzz at Wildcat Hills

Bumblebee and soldier beetle on aster.

GERING, Neb. — The Wildcat Hills Nature Center south of Gering will be buzzing about pollinators this weekend. “Powerful Pollinators,” the latest event in the Wildcat Weekends series, will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 14, and is open to the public free of charge. Amanda Filipi, Commission outdoor education specialist, said she will tell attendees about the importance of pollinators, which experts say are responsible in the creation of one-third of the food humans eat and provide many other …

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Game and Parks provides updates on cougar research and management

GERING, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission delivered an update of its cougar research and newly approved management plan for the species to Panhandle residents this week. The information was delivered during public meetings in Gering on Wednesday, April 4, and Chadron on Tuesday, April 3. The meetings featured a presentation by Sam Wilson, Commission carnivore and furbearer program manager, and addressed questions about the big cats, commonly referred to as mountain lions or pumas. Wilson said cougars …

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Battling the invasives

Phragmites

Those of you who have been to Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Rushville lately have surely noticed the signs warning you about an invader that has taken up residence in the water. For those of you who have not, no, the Walgren Lake Monster of local legend has not moved east — as far as we know. The culprit is curly leaf pondweed – a plant that forms dense stands over large areas, crowding out other species, restricting …

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Nebraska Game and Parks to host public meetings about mountain lions

LINCOLN, Neb. – The public is encouraged to attend one of four upcoming informational meetings about mountain lions in Nebraska. The meetings are hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The meetings will include an overview of what the Commission knows about mountain lions in the state. Topics will include an update on research and details of the new mountain lion management plan. Staff then will receive feedback and answer questions. All meetings will be from 7 p.m. to …

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Ponds at Fort Robinson State Park getting major improvements

Lower Ice House Pond

CRAWFORD, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is moving forward with a comprehensive plan to improve the fishing at most of the 11 ponds in Fort Robinson State Park. Joe Rydell of Alliance, Commission fisheries biologist, said the ponds provide angling opportunities to countless park visitors each year but are in need of an upgrade and have untapped potential. Fed by coldwater streams and springs, many of the ponds in the 22,000-acre park served the Crawford National Fish …

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Alliance angler is first Nebraska Trout Slam recipient

Justin Powell

ALLIANCE, Neb. — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has its first official Trout Slam angler. Justin Powell of Alliance was the first to meet the requirements of the new program, in which successful entries catch one of each purebred species of trout found in Nebraska – rainbows, browns, cutthroats and brooks. Although Powell has caught all four species in one day in the past, it took him two this time. He caught the fish in the Pine Ridge and …

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