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Nebraska bighorn sheep hunters successful

Trevor Premer and the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep he harvested in the Wildcat Hills on Dec. 11. (Nebraskaland/Justin Haag)
Frank Tritz and the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep he harvested in the Pine Ridge on Dec. 3. (Nebraskaland/Justin Haag)

MORRILL, Neb. – Nebraska’s bighorn sheep hunting season wrapped up Wednesday afternoon as the second of the state’s two permit holders found success at Montz Point Wildlife Management Area in Scotts Bluff County.

Trevor Premer of McCook, who won his permit by a lottery open to Nebraska residents, harvested a 7 1/2-year-old ram to conclude a hunt that began Monday in the Pine Ridge but concluded in the Wildcat Hills. The other hunter, Frank Tritz of LeMars, Iowa, won his permit by an auction sponsored by the Wild Sheep Foundation and harvested an 8 1/2-year-old ram Dec. 3 on a remote escarpment of the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area south of Whitney.

Todd Nordeen, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission big game and disease research manager who supervises the hunting program, said both rams harvested this year were trophy caliber Rocky Mountain bighorns, the subspecies that resides among the rugged sandstone buttes and escarpments of the Nebraska Panhandle. The ram harvested Wednesday marks the 27th in Nebraska since the Game and Parks Commission’s hunting program began in 1998.

The number of Nebraska bighorn sheep permits available each year is based on the state’s population of the species, especially mature rams, as determined during monitoring by Game and Parks staff. The permit winners are assisted by Game and Parks staff and treated to meals and lodging at Fort Robinson State Park.

Money from the hunts has been vital to bighorn sheep conservation in Nebraska. About $1.5 million has been raised through the lottery applications and auctions.

Reintroduction efforts for bighorn sheep began in the 1980s, an attempt to remedy the over-hunting, habitat loss and disease that led to their extirpation from the state in the late 1800s. Nebraska’s population of bighorns stands at about 230 in the Wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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