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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 changes restaurant hours

CRAWFORD, Neb. — Fort Robinson State Park will be changing its restaurant hours June 1 because of an employee shortage. The new hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The restaurant, located in the park’s headquarters, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

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Fort Market attracts many diverse vendors

CRAWFORD, Neb. – Arts, crafts and an array of other merchandise will be up for sale during the fifth annual Fort Market at Fort Robinson State Park on Saturday, June 8. The event will be based at the park’s centrally located Buffalo Soldier Barracks from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. About 50 vendors, offering items ranging from food to yard art, have signed up so far and the park has just a few outdoor stalls left. Requests for vendor applications …

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Flooding prompts Cottonwood Lake closure

MERRIMAN, Neb. — Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area in north-central Nebraska has been temporarily closed because rains have flooded the park’s access road and portions of its camping area. The park will be reopened after the flood waters recede and the grounds are ready for visitors. Cottonwood Lake SRA, which includes the 60-acre lake and 180 additional acres near Merriman in the Sandhills, is managed by nearby Bowring Ranch State Historical Park.

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Northwestern Exposure: The Bright Lights of Cottonwood-Steverson

Lightning at Cottonwood-Steverson

As the weather warms up, I love overnight trips to our great public lands in the region. The more remote the better. For the first trip of the season, I chose Cottonwood-Steverson Wildlife Management Area in the Sandhills between Merriman and Hyannis. Upon arrival, the Cottonwood-Steverson welcoming committee promptly greeted me. While many water-loving species are attracted to Cottonwood-Steverson and its Sandhills lakes, I found myself attracted to the many small birds fluttering among the trees. The warblers were out …

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Saddling Up Out West

For exploring the rugged and spacious public lands of the Panhandle, it is tough to beat a mode of transportation that has been around a while. The Panhandle of western Nebraska’s rugged buttes, sweeping grasslands, rolling hills and ponderosa pine forests spur an urge of exploration for countless visitors each year. For many a seasoned cowpoke on down to the greenest of greenhorns, their most memorable experiences while visiting this region have been atop a mode of transportation that has …

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Northwestern Exposure: Taking refuge

This is always an especially great time of year to visit the Sandhills, with the landscape greening up and diverse wildlife in abundance. Anyone wanting to do so had better check conditions before going, though. On May 2, I decided to drive the slow road through the Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge from Oshkosh to Lakeside. Once I got to the refuge, I found the road under water in several places and decided to backtrack southward, making for a much …

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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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