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Afield and Afloat

Walk This Way

Just like the shape of its bill, a bird’s feet can tell us a lot about its ecology and the habitat in which it lives. Birds do a lot with their feet – they can perch, walk, preen, feed, carry/hold objects and even swim. These animals are considered digitigrade, meaning they generally walk on their toes, not their entire foot like people do. Most birds have four toes, or digits, while some species only have three. These digits are arranged …

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Five Must-Dos for Deer Season

To experience the most from this year’s firearm deer season, here are the five things you have to do. 1) Find the does. The bucks are doing just that and so should you. Being 100 yards or so downwind of several travel routes to/from bedding areas can mean success in seeing the deer you have been thinking about. Just be cautious not to hunt in or too near the bedding area, which could send all deer out of the area. …

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Don’t Mess with Oil Beetles

Among all the crazy life stories of all the crazy insects in the world, the oil beetle ranks as an elite. The oil beetle is a plant-feeding insect in the blister beetle family. As with other blister beetles, the oil beetle produces a toxic compound called cantharidin that is used to protect its eggs from predation. In addition, when an oil beetle feels threatened, it secretes a yellow substance from its leg joints (of all places) that contains enough cantharidin …

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Fleeting scenes of fall

Whether it be the first sign of frost or quickly changing explosion of color, autumn brings a sense of urgency to nature photography. With snow in the forecast this week, scenes such as these seem especially fleeting. When fall foliage bursts to the scene, I often find myself driving the Pine Ridge’s West Ash Creek Road. And stopping for a few photos, of course. Towering cottonwoods, such as this one at Fort Robinson State Park, seem to have benefited from …

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So long, summer

I know everyone is excited for fall, but I would be remiss not to post some scenes from late summer. It is always a good work day when I get to wade in the creek. Such was the case last week when I joined Nebraska fisheries biologists as they stocked about 1,000 cutthroat trout in the middle fork of Soldier Creek and the Wood Reserve Ponds. Here are just a few of those fish leaving the net. The fish, which …

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Thoughts on Waterfowl

It’s just my humble opinion, but I believe those of us involved in fish and wildlife conservation on a professional level are “wired” a bit differently than the rest of society. There’s some innate draw or attraction to wild and natural things and places that is difficult to explain, let alone understand. That attraction has led us down a path of life that isn’t just a job or a career, but a vocation that is inexplicably intertwined with our lives, …

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Breakfast in the Blind

When you’ve been up and dragging decoys since 4 a.m., you’re ready for some grub by the time the ducks have flown and the midmorning lull begins. Whether you’re hunting from a heated pit blind, camouflaged among the reeds or lying in a small layout blind, there’s never a reason to go hungry. Read on for ideas beyond energy bars and good old raisins and peanuts. Kitchen-ready Blind Hunting from a heated blind can be like staying in a 5-star …

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BB Gun Beginning

Henry Matulka of Gretna went on his first hunting trip when he was 5 years old. Without a driver’s license to operate a vehicle, or his own money to purchase gear, he was reliant upon someone taking him. That person was his dad, Tim. With BB gun in hand, Henry continued to accompany his dad on dove, waterfowl, deer, and turkey hunting trips, waiting for the day he could pull the trigger on something besides his Red Ryder lever action. …

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Tree Stand Safety

As you hit the field this deer season, be sure to keep tree stand safety in mind. Every year hunters have accidents, some fatal, when hunting out of a tree stand. Before the season starts, here are some tips to consider: • Always check old tree stands for safety. Look at welds, nuts and bolts to make sure they are secure. • Check all tree stand straps and replace any that are weathered or frayed. • Always use a safety …

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Finding History in the Sandhills

Long ago on grassy hills, a hunter stalks a deer. Wearing skins of the same animal, he loads a thin-shafted spear onto a wooden spear thrower. Rising from cover, he whips the spear into a silent, shallow arch. The stone spear point strikes a mortal wound, but the still-mobile deer bounds away never to be found. Frustrated about the loss of good meat and his prized speckled brown point, the dejected hunter heads home, belly growling. Two thousand years later, …

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