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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.

Officials say Nebraska still tops for turkey, but advise preparedness


LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials say recent extreme weather events have not changed the state’s status as the best turkey hunting destination in the nation, but the conditions may have made the birds harder to access in many areas. Because of closed roads, washouts and water damage in some areas of the state, the Commission encourages turkey hunters traveling from afar to research conditions to ensure their hunting spots are accessible by vehicle. The Nebraska 511 …

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Northwestern Exposure: Finding a Strut after Ulmer


Big blizzard. Historical flooding. Just a lot of general muckiness. March 2019 will be a month Nebraskans will surely want to forget, but I shot a few photos, anyway. This white-tailed deer struggling to travel the Pine Ridge in the wake of Winter Storm Ulmer on March 15 gives you an idea of how much snow we got. Most of that snow has since melted, as has another little dose we got last week. While not the catastrophe our friends …

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Fort Robinson Fishing Upgrades

Anglers visiting Fort Robinson State Park in coming months may be disappointed to find some of their favorite ponds without water, but are sure to enjoy the same places in coming years. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission drained Grabel Ponds and Cherry Creek Pond to make way for the first phase of an Aquatic Habitat Program project to improve conditions for fish and anglers at the two ponds, along with the Cherry Creek diversion pond and the lower Ice …

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Northwestern Exposure: Oh, deer. More frost.

Frosty pines

All ears: Ear size is a distinguishing characteristic between mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) – so much so that it helped mule deer get their name. I have read that the large ears enhances mule deer hearing, but have not found any scientific research to back that up. It would make sense, however, that an adaptation to hear over long distances would serve mule deer well considering they are known to inhabit the open plain while …

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Snipe program coming to Wildcat Hills. Really.

GERING, Neb. – It’s no prank. The Wildcat Hills Nature Center will present a program about snipe this week. “Snipe: Reality or Legend?” begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 9. Snipe, a wading bird with a long straight bill and mottled brown plumage, is an actual game bird in Nebraska, but many people know it better for its role in a common joke in which people are tricked into hunting a non-existent creature. Amanda Filipi, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission …

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Northwestern Exposure, March 1, 2019: Freezing at the Falls

Icy Smith Falls

It’s interesting to watch our parks and wildlands change appearances with each season. Our weather extremes can sometimes make us groan, but they provide a lot of material for a nature photographer. Cherry County’s Niobrara Valley of Feb. 26 certainly had a different appearance than the last time I was there – a camping trip with my kids in August. With the temperature at -3 F, I pulled in to the park at daybreak under an overcast sky. On such …

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Northwestern Exposure, Feb. 21, 2019: Bringing in the Sheep

One of the most impressive conservation projects I’ve photographed each of the past six years is the capture of wild bighorn sheep. Watching a helicopter as it darts in and out of rugged terrain and arrive to the processing site with sheep tethered below does not get old. Neither does watching the team of wildlife professionals take samples, install tracking equipment and release the animals back to the wild. With single-digit temperatures, this was the coldest bighorn sheep capture I’ve …

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Bighorn sheep captured in the Panhandle

Releasing sheep

CHADRON, Neb. — Bighorn sheep in the Panhandle are sporting some new hardware this week thanks to the work of a helicopter capture crew, wildlife professionals and volunteers. South Dakota State University joined the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in capturing and processing a total of 48 sheep Monday and Tuesday — 22 in the Wildcat Hills near McGrew and 26 at three locations in the Pine Ridge near Chadron and Crawford. Wildlife professionals have ramped up monitoring efforts in …

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Northwestern Exposure, Feb. 6, 2019: Killer Frost

There is always a lot of beauty in the Nebraska Panhandle. For nature photography, though, I am a lot less inspired during periods without snow or colorful foliage. Seems we have not had as much snow this year as usual, and the snow we have had has melted quickly. With such conditions, I gravitate toward the wildlife for imagery. Such as pronghorn at sunrise. Those of us who have been around long enough to witness the return of the bald …

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Northwestern Exposure, Jan. 31, 2019

In an effort to show some of the beauty I get to frequently encounter in this part of the world, I’ve decided to periodically feature some of my favorite photos on this site. Here are some scenes from around the Panhandle in recent weeks. Frosty ponderosa pines always catch my eye. With a little splash of evening sunlight, it seemed these specimens in the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest were begging to have their photo taken. …

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