LINCOLN – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission adopted a comprehensive pheasant management plan at its meeting April 22 in Chadron. The goal of the Nebraska Mega Plan for Improving Pheasant Hunting is to produce the best pheasant hunting experiences for the most people over the next five years.
Since the first reports in Nebraska around 1900, pheasants have become a fixture of the state’s agricultural and cultural heritage. Hunting is not only a management tool but a tie that binds family and friends to the outdoor world and a driver of economies in towns large and small. The plan will direct active management for pheasants at a greater level never seen in Nebraska.
The plan seeks to increase pheasant abundance, increase hunter access, increase the pool of potential hunters, manage hunter expectations, and improve the funding and policy related to pheasant hunting.
To view the plan, visit: http://outdoornebraska.gov/pheasantmegaplan/.
At the meeting, the Commission also approved Commission orders after hearing public testimony on 2016-2017 big game and waterfowl season recommendations.
The 2015-16 big game season report indicated harvest levels above average for elk, pronghorn and deer. Across many hunting units, big game populations are healthy and offer many hunting opportunities for the upcoming seasons. The Commission approved increases in pronghorn permits for three units and in mule deer permits for the Frenchman and Platte Mule Deer Conservation Areas, as well as an increase in antlerless only season choice permits in several deer units. Staff recommendations are developed using information from past hunting seasons, public meetings and contacts with constituents throughout the year. Information will be available at OutdoorNebraska.org and published in the 2016 Big Game Guide in May.
The Commission approved duck and goose season dates that were slightly later than last season as well as white-front and light goose seasons. Early teal season recommendations were modified to open the Saturday prior to Labor Day. Staff waterfowl recommendations for season dates were based on information received from waterfowl hunters and recent harvest reports. Visit http://outdoornebraska.gov/huntingseasons/ to view the approved season dates.
In other business, the Commission approved:
— a recommendation to acquire 80-plus acres in Dawes County adjacent to Chadron Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and designate it an addition to the WMA;
— a recommendation for the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation to proceed with the acquisition of the Ardyce Haring Nebraska Prairie Revocable Trust tract in Franklin County;
— one recommendation to increase the cash change fund from $250 to $500 at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area (SRA) to accommodate the new Outdoor Education Shooting Complex, which is scheduled to open this year, and another recommendation to establish fees for the facility.
In other business, the Commission heard:
— an update on mountain lion research; the past year’s research has been successful and in the future will bring new information to better understand the mountain lion population throughout Nebraska. Staff reported updated information from the 2015 scat surveys indicating that the population of mountain lions in the Pine Ridge is similar to past years.
— a staff report regarding utility terrain vehicles and statutory limits or requirements regarding appropriate use in state park areas;
— a staff presentation on the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, which is comprised of national business and conservation leaders. The Blue Ribbon Panel is recommending and pursuing a sustainable funding approach to increase fish and wildlife conservation.