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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.

Forest thinning ramping up on Game and Parks properties

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CHADRON, Neb. – Forest thinning is either underway or scheduled to begin soon at three Nebraska Game and Parks Commission properties in the Pine Ridge near Crawford and Harrison. The projects consist of 258 acres at Gilbert-Baker Wildlife Management Area, 84 acres at Ponderosa Wildlife Management Area, and 80 acres at Fort Robinson State Park. The work is beginning this spring and will continue into fall. Most of the efforts are targeting stands of ponderosa pine trees, which, as with …

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Prairie grouse use variety of vegetation

Sharp-tailed grouse

Gathering with others is not encouraged during this pandemic, but one segment of western Nebraska’s population has been going at it in full swing. Don’t worry — I’m just talking about the grassland-loving prairie grouse and their annual spring mating ritual on grounds known as leks. Those who have seen and heard the spectacular booming of prairie chickens and dancing of sharp-tailed grouse know the birds like to perform on a site with short to no vegetation. Despite that, they …

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COVID-19 alters Panhandle turkey hunting scene

Merriam's Wild Turkey

This time of year, with Nebraska’s popular firearm turkey season getting underway, the Panhandle and its public lands are usually bustling with people from near and far in pursuit of a gobbler. This spring, though, people are being asked to keep their outdoor recreational pursuits close to home and there are not nearly as many hunters coming from out-of-state. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is taking the coronavirus crisis seriously, and is asking hunters to do so, too. Nebraska …

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Wildcat Hills Nature Center plans online Earth Day program

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GERING, Neb. – In order to serve people homebound from the COVID-19 issue, the Wildcat Hills Nature Center is beginning a series of outdoor education programs on the popular online meeting platform Zoom this week with an Earth Day celebration. The event is set for 6 p.m. MDT Wednesday, April 22. Amanda Filipi, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission outdoor education specialist, will tell about the history of Earth Day and lead participants in a project to create art from recycled …

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Setting sights on the walleye

Anglers with walleye

The walleye may be Nebraska’s most popular, albeit often hard-to-catch, game fish. It is known for not only having great-tasting fillets, but also for growing big and providing anglers a fishing challenge. Despite its reputation for being hard to catch, at certain times of the year walleyes can be taken by both boat and bank anglers with average skills. Joe Rydell, a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s northwest district, said we are in the midst of …

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Panhandle Afield: Outdoor education also altered

GERING — Amanda Filipi, who leads western Nebraska’s outdoor education efforts for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission from the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, is usually busy this time of year. Filipi is usually hosting a surge of field trips, leading children on hikes and presenting classroom programs. Similar to other educators she is sad to be sidelined from her normal routine. “This is usually my favorite time of year. We have roughly 2,000 students that come through in the …

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The Pine Ridge Special

Step away from ordinary equipment to fly-fish Nebraska’s trout streams. Let’s get this out of the way early. When looking for fly-fishing advice, you might want to go elsewhere. Mind you, I have fly-fished many times, but when it comes to getting serious about catching fish, a spinnerbait or can of nightcrawlers is usually involved. My fly-fishing dates back to the 1990s when I was gifted a rod-and-reel combo package. As with all fishing, it was fun. Too often, though, …

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Fort Robinson Mare Barn Complex getting new life

CRAWFORD, Neb. – Visitors who camp with their horses at Fort Robinson State Park are expected to enjoy upgrades and repairs to the Mare Barn Complex. Park superintendent Jim Miller said the wooden Mare Barn, which stands at the west side of the park’s main campus with a narrow 20,000-square-foot 300-yard-long C-shaped footprint, has been getting an upgrade from the ground up this winter. Constructed during Fort Robinson’s period of developing and supplying horses for the U.S. Cavalry in the …

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Those Alluring Orbs

When photographing Nebraska’s great places, the moon and the sun are always welcome to the scene. Whether it be the fast-beating wings of a zigzagging teal or the earth-hammering legs of a sprinting pronghorn, a quick “trigger finger” is often necessary for capturing imagery of the region’s natural resources. Perhaps no photo subjects, though, get me in hot pursuit more than two that are the farthest from the camera. One is about 239,000 miles away. The other, almost 93 million …

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Road damage prompts temporary closure of Hudson Lake

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LINCOLN, Neb. – Hudson Lake in Cherry County is temporarily closed because of deteriorating road conditions. Warmer temperatures in recent days have prompted melting snow with runoff causing damage to the access road. Hudson Lake, which is about 24 miles southwest of Valentine, is available for public recreation through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Open Fields and Waters Program. Conditions will be assessed on a weekly basis to determine the lake’s reopening.

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