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justin haag

Justin Haag serves the Panhandle as a public information officer for the Commission, also 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 enjoy introducing their two children to the many outdoor recreational opportunities of the Pine Ridge region.

Counting Down ‘Pics of the Year’

Each day in western Nebraska brings beauty for those who seek it. To go along with the many countdowns this time of year, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most popular images from 2015 from my “Pic of the Day” postings on social media. Of course, they were judged by my friends and followers — most who happen to be clicking the like button from my home region of northwestern Nebraska. Not sure if their regional bias has …

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Group Hikes Scheduled for New Year’s Day

Winter scene at Chadron State Park

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is inviting the public to ring in the New Year by enjoying a guided hike through one of the state’s scenic state park lands. First Day Hikes are scheduled at six Nebraska parks on New Year’s Day, part of a larger effort of the America’s State Parks alliance. Bob Hanover, assistant parks division administrator, said the hikes are a great way to get outside, enjoy nature, exercise and enjoy time with friends and family. …

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Nebraska’s 20th Bighorn Likely a Record-setter

Terry Bogle with ram

Not only will a bighorn sheep harvested near Crawford in Nebraska’s Pine Ridge region on Wednesday have the special distinction of being the state’s 20th but also will likely go down as the state’s largest on record. Terry Bogle of Lincoln harvested the big ram at about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday on private property in the shadow of a steep cliff near a pair of northwestern Nebraska’s most prominent landmarks, Crow Butte and Little Crow Butte. The sheep unofficially scored 189 …

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Wildcat Hills Hunt Helps New Yorker, Commission Meet Goals

The Sackmans with ram

One more for the books. Barbara Sackman of Long Island, New York, added to a long string of hunting accomplishments with a trip to the Nebraska Panhandle this week. As one of just two bighorn sheep permit holders in the state, she harvested a big ram Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area in the Wildcat Hills seven miles southwest of Gering. The ram, which was among a group of about 20 sheep at the base of …

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Bighorn Sheep Hunter Finds Success in Wildcat Hills

Barbara Sackman with ram

Nebraska’s first bighorn sheep hunt of the 2015 season ended successfully in the Wildcat Hills near Gering this week. Barbara Sackman of Long Island, New York, harvested a big ram at Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area seven miles southwest of Gering on Wednesday, Dec. 2, marking the first time a bighorn sheep tag has been filled from the Wildcat Hills region instead of the Pine Ridge. Wild sheep were reintroduced to Cedar Canyon in 2001. The 9-year-old ram unofficially scored …

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Event Provides Birders Access to Lake Minatare

The public will have a unique opportunity for viewing birds during an event at Lake Minatare State Recreation Area on Saturday, Dec. 12. Birders of all ages and skill levels who want to participate in the one-day event may arrive at the lighthouse on Lakeview Point any time between 8-11 a.m. Binoculars, spotting scopes and blinds will be provided. Employees of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will lead the program. Dan Thornton, lake …

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New Sled Run Created at Chadron State Park

Sledders at Chadron State Park

With the northwestern Nebraska countryside adorned in white the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is encouraging people to grab their sleds and take a downhill ride at one of its state parks. Chadron State Park has a new sled run for visitors to enjoy. This summer, with winter in mind, staff cleared and mowed an area just north of the park’s highest parking lot. The obstruction-free run, which is near the Soapweed Picnic Shelter just off the paved loop around …

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Sowbelly on the Rise

Sowbelly Creek

My NEBRASKAland magazine duties are a little different than other types of journalism I’ve experienced during my career. With the bulk of the content for our magazine’s print edition being created a year in advance and stories going to press far ahead of each edition’s designated month, it doesn’t leave much room for “last-minute” changes. We all know conditions in Nebraska are susceptible to the whims of Mother Nature. For instance, a photo spread I produced titled “A Short Fall,” …

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Project Improving Trout Stream in Flood-damaged Park

Coffee Park

The effects of torrential spring flooding has dampened activity at Harrison’s Coffee Park for months, but thanks to a cooperative effort between local, state and federal officials there’s been a lot of movement at the remote attraction in Sioux County in recent days. Before long, trout anglers will be among those bringing the action. Major clean-up efforts at the park, located along Sowbelly Creek in the heart of the Pine Ridge in Sioux County, began last week when Fuller Construction …

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The Fall Before the Ice

Sawyer Haag with largemouth bass.

My ice-scraper went to work this week for the first time in months. Some may lament this annual milestone and the coming of winter, but each scrape gets me more excited for ice-fishing and the soon-to-come season of fun on the hardwater – even if I am just a few days removed from a more summer-like scene of comparable enjoyment. With abundant sunshine and near perfect temperatures Sunday, Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area in Sheridan County reeled in my son …

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