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The Science of Antlers

Antler Basics Horns and antlers, decorative headgear sported by some of Nebraska’s best-known species, are not the same. Horns are keratin, a hair-like sheath, that grows over a bony core throughout an animal’s life. They are found on pronghorn, bison, cattle, goats and sheep. Antlers, however, are bones that grow each spring and summer and are shed, or cast, late the following winter as the animal’s testosterone levels decrease. You’ll find them on deer and elk. Antlers grow up to …

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Think Like a Buck to Find Shed Deer Antlers

A wildlife biologist I once knew used tell me that to be an effective shed deer antler hunter, you must know white-tailed deer biology and “think like a buck” during winter and early spring. I get the biology part, but “think like a buck?” Hmmm … Luke Meduna who’s the Big Game Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, responds to that shed antler hunting strategy by saying: “Yes, to be successful, a shed deer antler hunter needs …

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Buttes of the Breakout

The Cheyenne Buttes provide one of the most scenic vantage points in the Pine Ridge. They also are forever tied to an event from Fort Robinson State Park’s history as a U.S. Cavalry post and got their name from a notorious event. Historians rate the happenings of Jan. 9, 1879, among the most significant events of the Indian Wars. While that day is certainly important, it is just one day among a period of more than three months. The previous …

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New specialty license plates benefit conservation, Nebraska trails

Sandhill crane license plate design

LINCOLN, Neb. – Starting Jan. 1, Nebraskans will have four new colorful specialty license plates to choose from for their vehicles to show their conservation pride. The newly designed plates, which will be available at the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, celebrate Nebraska’s diverse wildlife and recreation opportunities. The three wildlife options include a Nebraska bighorn sheep, sandhill crane and ornate box turtle. The fourth option, championed by Bike/Walk Nebraska, includes a trail scene and the words “The Good Life …

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Ice Bubbles

As a photographer drawn mostly to small subjects like bugs and flowers, it can be hard to find much to photograph after the end of the growing season. Most invertebrates die, migrate or go dormant. Plants wither and turn brown. It’s fun to seek out interesting texture and patterns after a fresh snow or on a frosty morning, but those opportunities are relatively uncommon during most winters. When I start to feel especially stir crazy, one of my go-to remedies …

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Plains Onion

The Not So Plain Plains Onion Of our state’s six species of native onion, the Plains onion, though small in stature, has the largest, and in my opinion, most elegant flowers. Unlike the other onions, its flowers are scented, a sweet fragrance reminiscent of hyacinths or cloves. Unfortunately, hidden among the prairie grasses, this uncommon little onion is rarely seen, except when exposed by its colorful May blooms. Rose-colored Petals Aptly named, the Plains onion (Allium perdulce) grows throughout the …

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Reflecting on the Crown-tipped Coral

One morning last July, I was riding in a UTV down a trail at Indian Cave State Park with ecologist Krista Lang, when I blurted out “Stop, stop, stop!” What had I seen? What had so excited this botanist? There, deep in the oak woods, growing on a log, was a beautiful crown-tipped coral mushroom. One of our missions that day was to photograph mushrooms, and this was a perfect specimen — fresh, big and immaculately shaped. But there was …

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Nebraska’s Varied and Vibrant Colors of October

It’s the month for pumpkin-spiced everything. It’s the month for Halloween decorations and candy galore. It’s the month when campfires are prevalent in the rings of state parks and recreation areas. It’s the month for the crop harvest in Nebraska. And, it’s the month when leaves turn color here in the Cornhusker State. Eastern cottonwood tree leaves beginning to turn their pretty yellow color along the Platte River near Gretna, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Ah …

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Top 3 Fall Mushrooms to Harvest

Double, double toil and trouble … It’s the Halloween season and a witch’s brew is not complete without a moist, edible fall mushroom or two, right? Just kidding. But, guess what? We have an array of fall fungi in Nebraska perfect for your dinner plate. The recent rainy, cool weather and subsequent sunshine and warmer temperatures should help to start bringing forth a flush of different wild mushrooms in various parts of Nebraska. The greatest variety of mushrooms is usually …

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Be Eco-Friendly, Pick up Your Trash (and that of others)!

Trash. A large amount and variety of trash. Plastic bottles. Plastic grocery bags. Fishing bait containers. Spent fishing line. Cigarette butts. Banana peels. Food wrappers. Diapers. Broken lawn chairs. Old tires. Now, add single-use face coverings and rubber gloves plus empty hand sanitizer containers. Whew! The list of trash items seems endless. So many people are visiting outdoor places and spaces during the current COVID-19 pandemic. In Nebraska, fishing and state park permit sales are up. Float trip outfitters report …

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