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Afield and Afloat

Convergence on Sacred Ground

If the hills and bluffs at Ash Hollow State Historical Park could talk they would have been buzzing about the Convergence on Sacred Ground event last weekend. Perhaps they were pleased to have the Lakota’s with their teepees, dances and sacred dialog being echoed about. Wagons once again rolled along the Oregon/California trail. The sounds of horses and cattle filled the air as cowboys roped and branded cattle on the meadows of the park. And the aromas from Dutch ovens …

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Racin’ and ‘Reckin’ at the Regatta

Alpine and Rick Hickstein

With Chadron’s Fur Trade Days celebration nearing, a photo on the shelf caught my eye last week. It was a black and white image from my first entry in the Fur Trade Regatta, an annual canoe race at Chadron State Park. That year, I teamed up with Bart Hughes, a coworker at the Chadron Record. It blew my mind to think that photo was taken 20 years ago. The Fur Trade Days Regatta at Chadron State Park might not be …

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Plan in Advance to Complete Hunter Education

We officially welcomed summer on June 21st, so instead of rifles, shotguns, bows, and wild game, most folks are probably thinking about baseball, swimming, barbeques and mowing the lawn.  But “now” is the time to start thinking about the various options available for completing hunter education so you’ll be ready for hunting season this coming fall. Hunter education has come a long way since 1974, when it became mandatory in the state of Nebraska. Today’s hunter education for both firearm …

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Fisheries work by horse and mule

Packhorse along Soldier Creek

Sometimes, if you want to get where the fish are, you have to go where other people are not. Such was the case for fisheries biologists in the Pine Ridge last week, as they recruited the help of a Game and Parks Commissioner, a Wyoming outfitter, and six four-legged friends to study one of Nebraska’s most remote public fishing areas. With the help of horses and mules owned by Commissioner Rick Brandt of Roca and outfitter Casey Cary of Powell, …

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This one’s for the birds

Black-crowned night heron

I probably owe my job to birds as much as anything. Prior to my NEBRASKAland days, just after getting my student loans paid off, I bought a 100-500mm telephoto zoom lens and set out on the back roads of the Pine Ridge region in search of animals to photograph. Loving both the outdoors and camerawork, wildlife photography just seemed natural, so to speak. As I launched my new pastime, I was excited to get images of the charismatic mammals of …

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Dancing on the prairies

It has been another great year of viewing prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse as they performed their mating rituals on the prairie. The displays usually occur from mid-April through the first week of May. If you have never experienced the mating rituals of these two species of birds I suggest you put this on your to do list for next spring.  I cannot express how exciting the mating displays are as these birds gather on their leks to claim territories …

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Photographing wildlife … from millions of years ago

Saber-toothed cats, by Jan Vriesen

When out and about capturing photos and stories for NEBRASKAland and other Commission materials, my mind frequently wanders to what the region we now know as Nebraska’s Panhandle looked like long ago. While at Fort Robinson State Park, I cannot help but think about how it must have appeared as an active military post in the 1800s — lively with U.S. Cavalry soldiers instead of today’s tourists. A drive through the ghost town of Orella on the serene and scenic …

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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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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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Beaver Valley Bird Trip

There’s not much reason these days for me to visit my childhood home of Beaver Valley, the stretch of mostly dry creek dotted by the villages of Danbury, Lebanon and Wilsonville along the Kansas border in southwestern Nebraska. Most of my immediate family no longer lives there, a great majority of the businesses have closed shop and the schools have consolidated to larger communities to the north. Shifts in rural America’s agriculture dynamics have forced populations to be a fraction …

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