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Afield and Afloat

Northwestern Exposure: Oh, deer. More frost.

Frosty pines

All ears: Ear size is a distinguishing characteristic between mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) – so much so that it helped mule deer get their name. I have read that the large ears enhances mule deer hearing, but have not found any scientific research to back that up. It would make sense, however, that an adaptation to hear over long distances would serve mule deer well considering they are known to inhabit the open plain while …

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Northwestern Exposure, March 1, 2019: Freezing at the Falls

Icy Smith Falls

It’s interesting to watch our parks and wildlands change appearances with each season. Our weather extremes can sometimes make us groan, but they provide a lot of material for a nature photographer. Cherry County’s Niobrara Valley of Feb. 26 certainly had a different appearance than the last time I was there – a camping trip with my kids in August. With the temperature at -3 F, I pulled in to the park at daybreak under an overcast sky. On such …

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Crane Moves

Sandhill Cranes Arriving Earlier, Shifting East on Platte Thousands of sandhill cranes will have arrived on the Platte River in central Nebraska by the time you read this. In the weeks to come, there may be 600,000 or more on the river on a given night, with some yet to arrive from their wintering grounds to the south and others having already continued their northward migration. This gathering of more than 80 percent of the mid-continent population of cranes is …

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The Value of Controlled Hunts

Controlled shooting areas are a mystery to many hunters. Defined as a private location leased or owned by an individual or group to hunt upland birds like ring-necked pheasants, quail, chukars, Hungarian partridge, and even mallards, during an extended season – they are often viewed as hunting spots for the inexperienced. When I started at Nebraskaland in 2006, I didn’t see what a controlled shooting area offered to an experienced, able-bodied hunter like myself. After visiting some – and talking …

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Photographing East Ash Road

A photographer captures the Pine Ridge’s East Ash Road through the seasons. The first time I laid eyes on this corkscrew turn nestled in the Pine Ridge of the Panhandle, I couldn’t help but question if I had stepped outside the borders of Nebraska. Such a far cry from the familiar geography of the Plains, the Pine Ridge is an area that has continually captivated me and keeps me coming back to discover more. As the seasons pass, the rugged …

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Super Tag

21-year-old completes multi-species Super Tag. Zachary Welch of Ainsworth is the latest hunter to complete the Nebraska Game and Park’s resident-only super tag, which allows for one elk, one antelope, one deer and two turkeys. The permit is awarded to one hunter annually by lottery and is valid for two years. Welch, a 21-year-old student at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, successfully hunted all five animals within four months by archery. He harvested a bull elk south of Wellfleet, a white-tailed …

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Northwestern Exposure, Feb. 21, 2019: Bringing in the Sheep

One of the most impressive conservation projects I’ve photographed each of the past six years is the capture of wild bighorn sheep. Watching a helicopter as it darts in and out of rugged terrain and arrive to the processing site with sheep tethered below does not get old. Neither does watching the team of wildlife professionals take samples, install tracking equipment and release the animals back to the wild. With single-digit temperatures, this was the coldest bighorn sheep capture I’ve …

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Northwestern Exposure, Feb. 6, 2019: Killer Frost

There is always a lot of beauty in the Nebraska Panhandle. For nature photography, though, I am a lot less inspired during periods without snow or colorful foliage. Seems we have not had as much snow this year as usual, and the snow we have had has melted quickly. With such conditions, I gravitate toward the wildlife for imagery. Such as pronghorn at sunrise. Those of us who have been around long enough to witness the return of the bald …

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Northwestern Exposure, Jan. 31, 2019

In an effort to show some of the beauty I get to frequently encounter in this part of the world, I’ve decided to periodically feature some of my favorite photos on this site. Here are some scenes from around the Panhandle in recent weeks. Frosty ponderosa pines always catch my eye. With a little splash of evening sunlight, it seemed these specimens in the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest were begging to have their photo taken. …

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An Ice Storm Feast

Photographs after an ice storm. I woke up on the morning of January 17 with a clear plan of attack. The biggest ice storm in a decade had ended the previous evening, and the forecast had correctly predicted clear skies and calm winds for the post-storm sunrise. Road crews had worked through the night, allowing me to slowly and carefully make my way across Aurora to a series of restored prairies along Lincoln Creek. It was going to be an …

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