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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.

Panhandle reports increased deer harvest

Mule Deer in the Pine Ridge

CHADRON, Neb. – Nebraska’s deer seasons wrapped up in mid-January and preliminary numbers show the harvest was up in the Panhandle. Through all seasons, hunters checked in 8,072 deer in the region compared to 7,815 the previous year — a 3.3 percent increase.  The Panhandle’s overall number of harvested deer consists of 4,717 mule deer and 3,355 whitetails. Three of the four westernmost units in the state – Pine Ridge, Plains and Sandhills — reported more deer harvested this fall …

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Badger Day in the forecast at Wildcat Hills

GERING, Neb. – The groundhog may or may not see its shadow, but the forecast says there is a highly favorable chance for people to learn about another burrowing animal next month. Badger Day will be Saturday, Feb. 3, at 10 a.m. at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center south of Gering. Amanda Filipi, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission outdoor education specialist, said that Badger Day was inspired by Groundhog Day – which was actually inspired by Badger Day. To Germans, …

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Road opens to south side of Chat Canyon WMA

VALENTINE, Neb. – The Nebraska National Forest has opened a road in Cherry County to motor vehicles, improving access to an area of Chat Canyon Wildlife Management Areathat lies south of the Niobrara River. The road is an existing two-track trail through the Samuel L. McKelvie Forest south of Chat Canyon WMA that was previously open to the public for only non-motorized use. It is one-half mile long, providing a link from Forest Service Road 603 to a quarter-mile easement over private …

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Panhandle’s natural beauty abundant in 2017

Concealed beneath a grass blind as the sun rises. Camping beneath a star-filled sky on a rocky ridge. Trekking with snowshoes into a forest blanketed by white. Soaring above the buttes while riding shotgun in a Cessna. Stirring up dust with a four-wheel drive on winding backroads. Those are just some of the many ways I witnessed beauty of the western Nebraska with camera in hand during 2017. A look back at the nature images I post to Facebook, Instagram …

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Game and Parks to burn slash piles at WMAs

Slash pile burning

CRAWFORD, Neb. – Nebraska Game and Parks Commission employees in northwestern Nebraska will begin burning slash piles from forest management projects at public properties near Crawford, Whitney, Chadron and Hay Springs in coming weeks. The piles are located at five Wildlife Management Areas — Metcalf, Chadron Creek Ranch, Ponderosa, Whitney Inlet and Peterson. Slash burning helps maintain healthy forests and prevent wildfires by safely removing potential fuel sources such as downed trees, thick vegetation, pine needles and leaves. This week’s …

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A partridge for the holidays

Gray partridge

As the “12 Days of Christmas” nears, it seems fitting to pay tribute to the gift most often mentioned in the familiar tune of that same name. That, of course, would be the partridge that “my true love sent to me” over and over again. While traveling a dirt road in northern Sheridan County in early December, I encountered the first partridge I have ever seen in the wild. I had heard of the gray partridge (Perdix perdix) residing in …

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Chadron man successful in bighorn hunt

Jack Nemeth and son, Riley with the big ram.

CRAWFORD, Neb. — Nebraska’s limited bighorn sheep season wrapped up Thursday afternoon when the second of two permit holders harvested a ram near Fort Robinson State Park’s Cheyenne Buttes. Jack Nemeth of nearby Chadron, who won the permit by lottery, said he was not looking for the “biggest, baddest ram” in the state, but rather a memorable experience with his son Riley, friend B.J. Dunn and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff. Nemeth, who placed a successful shot on the …

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Lake Minatare opening to birdwatchers Dec. 8

Lake Minatare Lighthouse

MINATARE, Neb. — The public will have a special opportunity for viewing birds during an event at Lake Minatare State Recreation Area on Friday, Dec. 8. The event marks the only opportunity for the public to access the 2,158-acre reservoir on the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge for its annual closure between Oct. 15 and Jan. 14. Birdwatchers 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, …

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Archery hunter’s bighorn sheep likely a Nebraska record

Jason Bruce with ram

GERING, Neb. – There may be a new state record among bighorn sheep harvested in Nebraska. Archery hunter Jason Bruce of Lockeford, California, claimed success during Nebraska’s bighorn sheep season with a massive ram taken on private property in the rocky Wildcat Hills near Gering on Saturday, Dec. 2. Todd Nordeen, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission biologist who manages Nebraska’s bighorn sheep program, said the mature ram, estimated to be 10 years old, had a gross score of 195 …

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The turtle — a master of wintering

Painted turtle

Some of the most common wildlife have the most magnificent capabilities. Painted turtles basking on a log is a familiar scene at ponds throughout Nebraska and much of the United States during summer months. Where, though, do those turtles go when temperatures drop and a heavy sheet of ice surrounds that log and covers that pond from shore to shore? This article provides some interesting information about how painted turtles, snapping turtles and other species of shelled reptiles survive the …

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