Commissioners Lynn Berggren and Jerrod Burke along with their sons Pat, Kevin, Logan and friends went on a Mixed Bag Quest this fall. Commissioner Burke documented their experience on Open Fields and Waters land in this article.[ Submitted by Commissioner Jerrod Burke ] We began our mixed bag quest on Wednesday morning, Nov. 12. Commissioner Berggren, my son Logan and I were headed to a cabin at Medicine Creek State Recreation Area to meet up with the national Pheasants Forever (PF) team. Today marked the first day of the Nebraska leg of the Pheasants Forever “Rooster Road Trip” and we were ready to trek some Open Fields and Waters land. A requirement of the “Rooster Road Trip” is that all hunting take place on property that is open to public access. Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters fit this bill perfectly. Colby Kerber, a PF biologist from Broken Bow and Andy Houser, a Farm Bill Biologist based out of McCook, joined us for the day.
Dawn came and the morning greeted us with temperatures below zero and a steady north wind at 20 mph. We were not to be deterred. Our game plan was set and we all headed out to some selected Open Fields and Waters properties in the area. The first fields we hunted we put five roosters in the bag with many more flushing wild. We figured this was a good a time as any to take a break from the freezing temperatures to warm up, grab a bite to eat and check pictures and camera footage. When we were warmed up and fed, we decided to hit one more field and call it a hunt. We didn’t put any more birds in the bag walking this last field but a good number flushed wild. It was a great day and successful hunt, all while helping promote Pheasants Forever and showcasing southwest Nebraska’s great public access areas.
The quest continued with the opening of the Nebraska rifle deer season. Logan held a Frenchman Mule Deer Conservation Area (MDCA) permit, so we took to the fields bright and early on opening day. The day broke cloudy and overcast with a light covering of fresh snow on the ground. As the anticipated shooting time neared it became obvious that with the overcast skies the optimum shooting light would occur later than the legal shooting time. This would eventually work against us as the first buck of the day appeared– a nice whitetail buck. Between the range being at least 300 yards and Logan not being exactly sure it was the buck he was looking for, we decided it was best to let this one go.
The rest of the day we spent looking for and tracking other bucks. One was a very nice whitetail and another one a mule deer buck that would have been one for the wall, but none presented a decent shot. We did see a large number of prairie chickens throughout our trek.
The second day of the season was much the same as the first, with good numbers of deer and one average-sized whitetail buck that tempted Logan with a broadside shot at 75 yards. Logan opted to to pass on this one as well.
Monday was a school day for Logan but there was still time for a late afternoon deer hunt before dark so we took to the fields with warmer weather. The change in temperatures seemed to have gotten the deer up and moving. After passing again on a couple of smaller bucks, the right one came into view for Logan in the middle of a picked corn field. Logan worked his way down a fence line using the terrain as cover to get within shooting range. Using a fence post for a rest he took aim at the buck, his rifle barked and the buck went down behind a terrace in the field. Logan watched for several minutes but never saw the buck get up, but couldn’t see him either. We set out across the field looking for Logan’s buck. As we approached the terrace the buck jumped up, obviously severely wounded. He ran toward a canyon on the edge of the field so we hurried after him. The buck had disappeared again in the canyon; we were not sure of his location. When we got to the edge of the field we saw the buck had made it to the bottom of the canyon. Logan took aim and fired a shot. The buck fell to the ground and a nice deer had been added to the mixed bag. From our hunt experience the deer numbers and quality appear to be outstanding this year.
Saturday morning rolled around and Logan and I along with hunting partner Rob decided to spend some time chasing upland game. We came across a number of birds, the dogs worked great with several points and we were able to put six roosters and four quail in the bag. It was a successful outing as pheasant numbers appear to be vastly improved and quail look to be outstanding. It is always nice to put some quail in the mixed bag.
With the temperatures in the mid-60s on this Saturday, Commissioner Berggren decided it seemed more like fishing weather than hunting weather, so he put his boat in the water. Fishing was slow but he was able to put a nice catfish in the boat, adding to the mixed bag. Not bad at all for the 22 of November on public water.
By Sunday morning overnight temperatures had dropped into the 30s and the north winds had picked up with gusts over 20 mph. Today on the agenda meeting time was set for 7 a.m. for some waterfowl hunting on public water. Commissioner Berggren, his son, Pat, and friend, Joe, joined Logan and I at the boat dock. We loaded our gear in the boat and within a few minutes we were on the water searching for that perfect spot to set decoys and hide the boat. We located our spot, nestled the boat into its area and set the decoys. It was time to hunt. Within a few minutes the first drake came into range and was dropped with one shot. From that point on, ducks were in the air almost non-stop, dropping into the decoys from high in the sky. It was truly a sight to behold. By 11 a.m. we had harvested a five-man limit of mallards. Public access for waterfowl hunting holds tremendous opportunities in Nebraska. On this day of the quest, on public waters of southwest Nebraska, we added a nice group of mallards to the mixed bag. Mixed bag opportunities abound in the Southwest and all across Nebraska. Find the ones you enjoy the most and pursue them to the fullest.