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Afield and Afloat

A magical time in northwestern Nebraska

Spring and early summer is a magical time of year that leaves us too quickly. It seems I never get out with the cameras as much as I want to during this period, but usually end up with a few keeper images, anyway. Here is a collection of random photos from recent weeks. I am often amused when any given chamber of commerce or tourism bureau brags on its sunrises and sunsets being the best. (Since we are all watching …

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Wildcat Hills: A Wild Place

Whether you’re looking for state-of-the-art facilities, or just a great view in the pines, this Panhandle park has it. High on the list of Nebraska’s captivating scenery and natural assets are the Wildcat Hills. It seems an understatement to label this topographical spectacle as “hills,” as it is actually a land of rugged buttes, ridges and canyons with topographical elements rising upwards to 1,000 feet above the North Platte Valley. Some of the state’s most recognizable landforms – Chimney Rock, …

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The Divine Devil’s Den

Scientists of yesteryear agree: this crevice in far northwestern Nebraska is in a class by itself. Western Nebraska has many landforms labeled canyons. Each contradicts Nebraska’s “flat” stereotype, but a true box canyon – one featuring steep walls on each side with single access for entrance and exit – is a rarity in the state. One site in the northwest corner of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s northwestern-most property fills the bill as such even though it does not …

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Dodder: A Parasitic Plant

Plants are green. In school, we all learned about photosynthesis, the ability of plants to convert sunlight to food using green chlorophyll in their leaves. It’s one of those foundational ideas upon which we’ve built our understanding of the world. Well, as it turns out, the world is a pretty complicated place, and there are some plants that aren’t green and that don’t even photosynthesize. One of those is a crazy-looking plant called dodder that grows across much of Nebraska. …

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Tying Fishing Knots

Do you want to keep that big fish on the line? These three knots will help. Practice before you go so you are familiar with them. By Larry Pape, Fisheries Education Specialist The Improved Cinch Knot This is the most commonly taught fishing knot and can be used on monofilament line to attach a hook, lure, or swivel. The knot is simple to remember and the line retains nearly all of its strength. 1. Thread the loose end of the …

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Bird Photography: The First 99

One shutter-button press at a time, the bird photos add up. What the Nebraska Panhandle may lack in diversity of bird life when compared to eastern Nebraska it more than makes up for in its varied landscape. That variation, from the towering sandstone buttes through the pine forests, sandhill lakes, riparian woodlands, grasslands, croplands and even residential areas, is home to a diversity of birds, and some bird-watching gems found nowhere else in the state. Joel Jorgensen, nongame bird program …

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Bowfishing 101

Nebraska’s public waters have enthralled me for more than 30 years. I first picked up a bow in 1988, and very quickly, bowfishing became a lifelong passion. Stalking a fish, unleashing an arrow and hoping for the best – the thrill is similar to hunting. I will always choose fishing with a bow over a rod and reel. Another reason why I love bowfishing so much – bowfishers still account for a small percentage of anglers in Nebraska, which means …

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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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Retiring Lures

Whether they be worn-out, abused, busted, or simply evoke fond memories, some of your favorite fishing lures sit on a desk, a shelf, or a fireplace mantle – a place of honor for retired lures. A Mangled Fly – Ryan Sparks Who you are fishing with is often more important than what you catch. From channel catfish in the Platte River to panfishing from a dock, some of my fondest memories are of fishing with my grandfather, or as I …

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That’s Water-clover

Not a lucky four-leaf clover. Every now and then, I get a familiar call: “I found a huge patch of four-leaf clovers in a wetland. What’s going on?” I respond: “Those are water-clover leaves, not those of the lucky four-leaf clover. So cancel the trip to Vegas.” Once, a perplexed biologist studying waterfowl food habits in playa wetlands called: “I found this big, dark brown seed in a duck’s crop and can’t figure out what plant it is from.” To …

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