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Afield and Afloat

Pursuing the parks – a great value

Campground Trail at Chadron State Park

It is late May, spring has finally sprung, and only the most ardent of homebodies are not excited about getting outdoors. It is no secret — some of the best places to enjoy that time outdoors is at our state parks. From horseback riding to swimming, the parks are putting their activities and amenities into full gear this month. While the parks may be open and enjoyable year-around, the first official day of the busy season is May 26. I …

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For the love of birds

Black-crowned night heron

If people ask, one group of animals often receives credit for fueling my passion for wildlife photography a little more than the others do. Capturing imagery of mammals, reptiles and amphibians is certainly just as rewarding, but it is often the birds that keep me going.  It seems there are always birds around whenever and wherever I feel the need to shoot a wildlife photo, and with more than 400 species of birds in Nebraska, I still have a lot …

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Wildcat Hills improvements popular

One of the Nebraska state park system’s most modern attractions happens to be in the Panhandle. Those of you who have not visited the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area south of Gering in the past year or so are sure to like what you see when you do. The newly renovated and expanded Nature Center with its interactive displays and event space have been a big hit among visitors, as has the new shooting complex that features targets for a …

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Grassland tribute

Supermoon over Sugarloaf Butte

In the May issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine, you will find a story and photos about one of my favorite places in the Panhandle – an area that might sometimes be overshadowed by its neighbor. The Oglala Grassland is a region in northern Dawes and Sioux counties that borders Nebraska’s stunning Pine Ridge and the South Dakota border. The region is designated one of the Panhandle’s 11 designated biologically unique landscapes in the Natural Legacy Project – the state’s wildlife action …

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Fort Robinson pond project bringing excitement

Among the Panhandle’s best fishing assets are the opportunities in and around Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford. With the 22,000-acre park’s 11 fishponds and coldwater streams in and near there, anglers can seek everything from warm water species such as largemouth bass, catfish and crappie to all species of trout found in Nebraska. Furthermore, the buttes and pine-studded bluffs provide a beautiful scenic backdrop for photos of your catch. As good as the fishing may be, it is sure …

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Teeming with Turkeys

Merriam's Wild Turkey

Nebraskans have become accustomed to seeing wild turkeys from border to border but it has not always been that way. When I was growing up in southwestern Nebraska in the 1970s and ‘80s, it was much more of a rarity to see them. Similar to many wildlife species, wild turkeys are native to Nebraska but factors related to Euro-American settlement wiped them out of the state in the early 1900s. Along with a lot of other wildlife, though, turkeys have …

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The dance of the sharptail

Sharp-tailed grouse

If you travel far at all on many of our dirt roads, you have a good chance of a seeing one or more sharp-tailed grouse – that is, if you can pick them out with their brown, black and buff camouflaged bodies. Sharptails, popular game birds in Nebraska, are at home on much our landscape, enjoying a mix of open grassland with some trees and shrubs. This is certainly the time of year that grouse are most fun to watch. …

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Battling the invasives

Phragmites

Those of you who have been to Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Rushville lately have surely noticed the signs warning you about an invader that has taken up residence in the water. For those of you who have not, no, the Walgren Lake Monster of local legend has not moved east — as far as we know. The culprit is curly leaf pondweed – a plant that forms dense stands over large areas, crowding out other species, restricting …

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Bighorn sheep capture

When I received the call from my co-worker, Justin Haag, about coming to the Panhandle to take photos of the bighorn sheep capture, I was more than ecstatic. I had always wanted to see how this process takes place and get close to the sheep. Along with that, who doesn’t want to travel to one of the most beautiful areas of Nebraska, the wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge. Not knowing what to expect, I went out to watch the crew …

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Women on ice – a Beyond BOW adventure

The Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program recently hosted a Beyond BOW ice fishing event at the Valentine Refuge Lakes. With good ice throughout the state it was the perfect time to teach women about the equipment and techniques of ice fishing. During this Beyond BOW, women that wanted to learn how to ice fish or get more insight of the sport signed up to experience something new where they could learn together. Emails of what to bring were sent out …

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