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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.

Road opens to Blue Lake

ALLIANCE, Neb. — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has opened the access road to Blue Lake in the Sandhills of Garden County. The 2.7-mile two-track trail through private property was closed late this winter because it became muddy and susceptible to damage during thawing. Blue Lake is a popular fishing destination 22 miles north of Oshkosh near the Crescent Lake Wildlife Management Area and Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Because access to the lake is allowed only through a …

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Bighorn sheep tracking effort sets sights on future lambs

Releasing bighorn ewe

CHADRON, Neb. — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission got up-close and personal with 20 bighorn sheep ewes this week in an effort to track their future offspring. The goal is to get a handle on the species’ population struggles in the Pine Ridge area of northwestern Nebraska. With the help of a helicopter wildlife capturing crew and others, Commission staff on Tuesday through Thursday, Feb. 14-16, equipped 20 pregnant female sheep with a device to immediately detect when lambs …

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Hudson Lake, Blue Lake closed to fishing

ALLIANCE, Neb. — Warmer temperatures have caused muddy road conditions and consequently the closure of the two-track pasture trails leading to two Sandhills lakes, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. They are Blue Lake in Garden County and Hudson Lake in Cherry County. The closure likely marks the season’s end at Hudson Lake, a 160-acre private body of water 27 miles southeast of Valentine near Big Alkali Lake Wildlife Management Area. It is open to the public only …

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Nebraska’s Other Pheasant Capital

As I wrote a while back, I have roots in a region long considered one of the nation’s premier pheasant-hunting destinations – southwestern Nebraska. Not only did my first hunting experiences involve pursuits of Rowdy Rooster, one of my first jobs was a part-time position at a McCook motel where I witnessed the influence the pheasant season can have on a local economy. Each November, it seemed every bird hunter and his dog from outside the area converged on that …

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Time Change for Landowner Meeting about Pheasants

ALLIANCE — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has made a slight change regarding an upcoming meeting for landowners in the northern Panhandle to discuss their roles and opportunities for pheasant management. The public meeting, which is Monday, Jan. 23, at Newberry’s in Alliance, has been moved up to 6:30 p.m., and dinner will be served. Those planning to attend may ensure they receive dinner by contacting the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Northwest District regional office at 308-763-2940 or …

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Commission Invites Landowners to Discuss Pheasant Opportunities

Rooster pheasant

ALLIANCE — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is inviting landowners in the northern Panhandle to discuss their roles and opportunities for pheasant management. The public meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, at Newberry’s, 104 West Fourth Street, in Alliance. The Commission will share information about the Berggren Plan, a five-year initiative aimed at improving the pheasant hunting experience in Nebraska. Attendees also will learn about a variety of conservation programs and incentives available to landowners within the …

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Wildcat Hills Offers Muzzleloader, Archery Classes

Archer at Wildcat Hills SRA

GERING — The Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is seeking enrollees for its first series of classes which consist of six sessions about muzzleloaders and archery. Both topics have a course set for each of the coming months – February, March and April. The courses are offered in three two-hour sessions over consecutive weeks. Cat Vinton, the facility’s superintendent, expects the courses to be popular. With advancements in equipment, long seasons and distinctive challenges, …

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Wildcat Hills Staff Moves into Renovated Facility

GERING – The New Year brings a move to new offices for staff of the Wildcat Hills Nature Center at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. Staff members began operating from their newly renovated offices after returning from the New Year’s holiday, bringing business operations such as selling hunting, fishing and park entry permits back to that location. Gary Shoemaker, park superintendent, said the building’s exhibits and the other public spaces of the facility won’t be ready for a few months, …

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Photographing the Panhandle: A Top 10 for No. 3

Photographing the Panhandle: A Top 10 for No. 3 I live in a pretty special place. A recent National Geographic article by Robert Reid ranks all of America’s 10 panhandles from 1 to 10 in terms of travel appeal. Nebraska came in at No. 3 on the list, topped only by Alaska and Florida. Travelers who have seen Nebraska only during a drive along Interstate 80 might be surprised our panhandle ranked so high, but it certainly comes as no …

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Reward Offered in Whitney Lake Vandalism Case

CHADRON — A reward is available for information leading to the conviction of the person or people responsible for vandalism at Whitney Lake Wildlife Management Area in Dawes County. The vandalism occurred at the lake’s boat launch facilities, which have been undergoing improvements thanks to a partnership between the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Whitney Lake Fishing Club. The most recent act of destruction involved using the upgraded restroom facility as target practice with of a high-powered rifle. …

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