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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.

Panhandle Passages: Tracking Cats

A new year and a new season. As you’ve probably heard by now, Nebraska’s first two permit holders for mountain lion season in the Pine Ridge were successful Thursday. The season has garnered a lot of attention, being Nebraska’s first. With photography equipment in hand, I accompanied Holden Bruce, the 16-year-old hunter from Franklin, one of the two permit holders. He came to northwest Nebraska with his father, Jeremy, and older brother, Tristan. We set out early New Year’s Day …

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Panhandle Passages: Scanning for Deer

I remember when a large retail chain opened a store near my hometown and brought with it something amazing. To a child such as me, bar code scanner technology seemed magical. No longer did we have to wait for the cashier to hand input each item – all that was required was a simple beep. The same technology received positive feedback last week at a place far from the express lane– a northwestern district public deer meeting at Chadron. The …

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Panhandle Passages: Roundup at the Fort

Visitors to Fort Robinson State Park often enjoy catching a view of the animals that roam most of the park’s 22,000 acres. In addition to the wildlife, the bison, longhorn cattle and horses that graze the park’s scenic pastures instantly conjure up images of the region “when the West was wild,” as they say. I was fortunate this week to be on site when park superintendent Mike Morava and a crew of experienced ranch hands rounded up the bison and …

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Panhandle Passages: Hunting for Words

I figure it’s time to put words to some of my hunting experiences this fall. Time certainly does fly when the birds are flying. Turkey Time We’ll start off with an event in my “backyard.” In early October, about three dozen hunters came to Chadron to be paired with landowners for the Pine Ridge Wild Turkey Hunt. The annual hunt, which began in the mid-1990s, has forged many relationships while celebrating turkey hunting in the region that led the state’s …

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Panhandle Passages: Stopping to Smell ‘Em

I’ll admit, I’ve never figured myself to be much of a flower guy. Prior to this year, my nature photography has gravitated toward wildlife. I’m guilty of zooming past countless beautiful plants and flowers to fill the frame with whatever bird, mammal, reptile or other critter catches my eye. I’ve rarely stopped to shoot, let alone smell and identify, the roses. That’s changed. As nature photography, in a more broad sense, has become a big part of my job description, …

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Panhandle Passages: Lessons from Star Party Country

I’d never heard of the Niobrara River, let alone canoed it. It was the early ‘80s in southwestern Nebraska and Dad had caught wind of people enjoying canoe trips down the scenic Niobrara. So, he borrowed a canoe from someone in McCook, strapped it to the top of his old Pontiac and drove us up Highway 83 for an adventure. My sister and I, still in elementary school, surely had a lot of questions along the way. I remember wondering …

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Panhandle Passages: Closer to Home

My job with the Game and Parks commission and NEBRASKAland has taken me to some incredible places throughout the Panhandle and beyond in the first six months. With more than 40 Commission properties within 160 miles of my home, there is a lot to see and photograph in this spacious region. That being said, it seems some unbeatable travel opportunities await me right before my nose. While I join others in the desire to set up camp at a location …

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Panhandle Passages: Recording Our Assets

One of Nebraska’s great assets is the variety of animals that can be found when traveling from one end of the state to the other. Just as the landscape changes as one heads westward, so do the set of creatures one is likely to see. Within a short drive from Chadron I have a fair chance of seeing pronghorn, mule deer, elk and the occasional swift fox or golden eagle. And, of course, one of the state’s most prominent media …

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Panhandle Passages: What’s Up at Whitney?

One thing I like is the sight of a fish coming over the side of a boat. That’s just one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed a boat ride Thursday with Al Hanson and Joe Rydell, fisheries biologists for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s northwestern district. Hanson, district supervisor, and Rydell were collecting data from the frame nets they had set in Whitney Lake the previous day, a process they use to keep tabs on fish populations at bodies …

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