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Midland Musings with Jenny Nguyen – Fresh Powder

As much as I don’t like the cold, I must admit… I had a TON of fun this past weekend! Below is a photo taken from inside my apartment in Northeast Nebraska last Thursday. The snow did not fall until after 1:30 PM, and once it did, it kept falling and falling like nobody’s business. But nothing catastrophic happened. My windows did not shudder. It was hardly  the “blizzard,” “storm” or “snow-mageddon” as projected. To me, it was a nice evening to stay inside with the tip of my nose glued to glass. When there’s no wind, the sound of falling snow makes no noise. In darkness, it almost seems as though the world outside is more quiet than usual, a silence that is special, calm, peculiar and grave. I found it completely enchanting.

But when the sun comes out, snow takes on a different persona. Everything turns into a beautiful, white winter wonderland. It was a fantastic day to be out. Tom Welstead, Scott Wessel and I could not pass up the chance to look for tracks in fresh snow. We brought our .22s, just in case if there were any rabbits around.

We saw otter tracks, which Tom and Scott considered “text book.” River otters like to travel along banks, with a hop, hop, slide rhythm, as evidenced by the pattern of their tracks. Due to unregulated trapping, the otter disappeared from Nebraska in the early 1900s. Between 1986 and 1991, an effort to restore otter populations was carried out by NGPC. Releases were completed at seven strategic locations throughout the state. Today, strong evidence indicates that the project is becoming a success. Nebraska otters are making a comeback!

Another interesting factoid: Scott Wessel told me that otters prefer a communal site to deposit scat. This is especially important for biologists. By examining local latrine sites, scientists can determine the size, health and sex ratio of a population. I’ve never had the privilege of witnessing a river otter in the wild before. I hope to soon.

It was also really cool to see signs of beaver. Being from Southern California, I’ve never seen anything like this in person, let alone see a beaver. Scott, Tom and I spent most of our day at Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area. Josh Konouvsky (hope I spelled that right) who works at the shop joined us on our search for rabbit, too.

As you can see, there were lots of tracks, including our own…

But alas, we came home empty handed. There were no rabbits in sight. Every half hour, Tom would burst out an Elmer Fudd. “Wascally wabbits!”

Still, it was a beautiful day. I was delighted to see a sight so very familiar to me: the yucca plant. Common in California deserts and chaparrals, I had no idea that their range included the Midwest. From my hiking and backpacking experience, few things are as disheartening as seeing the the trail ahead of you overtaken by yucca plants. Ouch!

As always, it’s not what you shoot that counts. It’s the hunt and the experience. It was one of my best days in Nebraska. We ended our day with me sitting on a tube dragged by a quad in the snow. Wheeeee! I think I accidentally ate some snow.

About Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley is Nebraskaland Magazine's associate editor. She enjoys hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and wild game cooking.

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