Outdoor notes: Motorists urged to use caution to avoid collisions with deer
Deer are more active this time of the fall. Crops are being harvested and deer breeding season is in full swing. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has suggestions to help drivers avoid deer-vehicle accidents and lessen the risk of injury or vehicle damage.
- During the breeding season, bucks become more active searching for does. Bucks are bolder, less wary and more susceptible to collisions with vehicles. Deer movement peaks each day near dawn and dusk.
- Anticipate the possibility of a deer on the road and plan how to avoid a collision. Be prepared to stop suddenly but braking too sharply or swerving may cause you to lose control and roll your vehicle.
- Wear your seat belt.
- When driving near shelterbelts, woodlots or creeks, especially during evening or early morning, slow down and watch for deer. Keep your headlights on bright if there is no approaching traffic.
- When you spot a deer, assume there will be others in the same area.
- Deer often seem to be disoriented or confused by headlights. Some react by freezing in the light, some dart into the path of the vehicle and others bolt away. Honk your horn and flash your headlights to frighten deer away. If there is other traffic on the road, activate your emergency flashers and tap your brakes to alert other drivers to the potential danger.
- Many places where deer-vehicle collisions occur are posted with deer crossing signs.
- If a deer is struck, the driver may take possession of the deer, then must contact the Game and Parks within 24 hours and have 48 hours to receive a salvage tag from a conservative officer or designee. See list of conservative officers at OutdoorNebraska.gov/ConservationOfficers.
Keep it safe this upland bird season
Nebraska’s pheasant, quail and partridge seasons are quickly approaching. The youth season is Oct. 22-23, and the general season opens Oct. 29.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reminds upland hunters to keep the following safety tips top of mind when they hit the fields this fall:
- Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, and never assume it isn’t.
- Always point the muzzle of your shotgun in a safe direction, away from people, structures, vehicles, roadways and any direction that could cause injury or damage if fired.
- Be sure to identify your target, what’s beyond it, and what’s in front of it. Don’t swing your muzzle on game outside of your safe zone of fire.
- Keep your finger outside the trigger guard and safety on until you are ready to fire.
- Plan your hunt and hunt your plan; put a game plan together with your group before your hunt. Remind everyone to keep their shots in a safe zone of fire. Know where your hunting group and others are at all times during your hunt.
- Never cross a fence, ditch, waterway or other obstacles with a loaded shotgun. Be sure to unload your shotgun, action open, and safety on before handing it to someone else over a fence.
- Be sure you, your group and dogs are wearing hunter orange on your head, chest and back. Hunter orange has reduced hunting incidents by 80% since the 1970s and helps you and other hunters identify unsafe shooting scenarios in the field.
Hunters ages 12-29 are reminded that they must carry proof of successful completion of a hunter education course while hunting. Proof can be in the form of a valid permit containing the hunter’s hunter education number, or a hunter education card or certificate issued by another state.
Those ages 12-29 who have not completed a hunter education course may purchase a $5 Apprentice Hunter Education Exemption Certificate that provides novice hunters an opportunity to receive instruction with an experienced hunter before completing a hunter education course.
For more information on hunter education requirements and exemptions, visit HuntSafeNebraska.org.
To learn more about hunting in Nebraska, or to purchase a permit, go to outdoornebraska.gov.
Mountain lion lottery application period is Nov. 7 – Dec. 14
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will accept lottery applications for mountain lion permits Nov. 7 – Dec. 14, 2022, for the 2023 hunting season.
Permits are available only to Nebraska residents, who may have one permit per calendar year. The bag limit for each permit is one mountain lion of either sex.
The 2023 Season 1 in the Pine Ridge Unit will be Jan. 2-Feb. 28. Before Feb. 28, the season will close immediately if either the annual harvest limit of four mountain lions or sublimit of two female mountain lions is reached. There will be 200 permits issued, and hunting with dogs will not be allowed during Season 1.
If the harvest limit is not reached in Season 1, an Auxiliary Season will be held March 11-31. The season will close immediately if either the harvest limit or sublimit is reached before March 31. Unsuccessful Season 1 hunters may apply to convert their permit to an Auxiliary Season permit. There will be one permit issued for each mountain lion remaining in the harvest limit. Hunting with dogs will be allowed if an Auxiliary Season is held.
Applications will be accepted from 1 p.m. Central time Nov. 7 through 5 p.m. (11:59 p.m. if applying online) Dec. 14. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org to apply online or download an application at OutdoorNebraska.gov/mountainlionhunting. A $15 nonrefundable application fee must be submitted with each application.
A harvest will allow the mountain lion population to remain resilient and healthy, while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size. This will maintain the population density in the Pine Ridge at a similar level to that of other states that allow mountain lion hunting.
To read more mountain lion hunting regulations, go to OutdoorNebraska.gov/mountainlionhunting.
Check boats, lifts, and docks for invasive aquatic hitchhikers as weather cools
Nebraskans are urged to check boats, boat lifts and docks for invasive species when removing them from water bodies for the winter.
Aquatic hitchhikers like zebra mussels can live up to two weeks out of water, and several lakes across the Midwest are first noticed to be infested by people removing boats, lifts and docks for the winter.
Young zebra mussels – or veligers – are invisible to the naked eye and can be spread through drops of water left undrained. All boat lifts and docks should remain out of the water and dried for 21 days before placing them into another water body.
A zebra mussel is a highly invasive aquatic species that looks like a D-shaped clam, with alternating light and dark bands. Most zebra mussels are less than an inch long. They form dense colonies and filter large quantities of plankton from water, decreasing the food supply for native species. In addition, these mussels pollute swimming areas with sharp shells and clog water intake pipes.
The Missouri River has an existing zebra mussel population along its entire length downstream of Gavins Point Dam. Lewis and Clark Lake, Lake Yankton and the Offutt Base Lake are the only other confirmed Nebraska waters that have established zebra mussel populations.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission annually samples dozens of lakes for early sign of zebra mussels. It also not only inspects watercraft for invasive species each year, but in 2022, it set a record by inspecting more than 6,000 watercraft.
“In Nebraska, we are fortunate we do not have more lakes infested with zebra mussels,” said Kristopher Stahr, Game and Parks’ aquatic invasive species program manager. “To protect our waters from invasive species we need everyone to always clean, drain and dry their watercraft and to report new infestations quickly.”
Game and Parks regulations require anglers, hunters and boaters conduct clean, drain and dry procedures before leaving a water body and are not allowed to arrive at a water body with any water from another water body. Visit stopaquatichitchhikers.org for details and for more information on aquatic invasive species.
Report any suspected observation of zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species to Game and Parks at 402-471-7602 or at [email protected].
Game and Parks reminds hunters: No pheasants available to be released for youth season, Thanksgiving weekend
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reminds hunters it will not be releasing pen-reared pheasants before the youth pheasant season and Thanksgiving holiday this year. Unlike past years, vendors were unable to provide the pheasants this year.
The statewide youth season is Oct. 22-23, but only youth ages 15 and younger will be allowed to hunt. The youth season provides a great opportunity to expose youth hunters to upland bird hunting and spend quality time afield. To find new places to hunt, refer to the Nebraska Public Access Atlas, which is available at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas.
People interested in hunting pen-raised birds in a more controlled environment are encouraged to visit one of state’s 48 Controlled Shooting Areas. CSAs are privately-owned areas for hunting upland gamebirds during an extended season. For more information, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/CSA.
Other options for youth hunters include attending a free Youth Mentor Hunt event (ages 12-15) or participating in the Next Steps Hunt Program, both sponsored by Pheasants Forever chapters throughout the state. For more information, visit NebraskaPF.com.
In recent years, Game and Parks has released approximately 16,500 pheasants on 19 public areas across the state. The agency is planning to release pheasants next year.
Hunters urged to be wary of potential fire hazards due to prolonged drought conditions
A spark. That’s all it takes to ignite a wildfire. With the pheasant and rifle deer season openers rapidly approaching, hunters are reminded to act responsibly in the field and to do their part in the prevention of wildfires.
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln drought monitor (droughtmonitor.unl.edu/), 80% of the state is experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions. These prolonged conditions have increased the risk of wildfires across much of the state, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission urges hunters to take the following precautions:
- Restrict driving to established roads and trails.
- Avoid parking vehicles in tall vegetation.
- Restrict the use of campfires.
- Dispose of cigarettes and other flammable objects appropriately.
- Ensure your vehicle, trailers, and other equipment are well-maintained.
- Make sure no chains are dragging from your vehicle.
- In the morning, before driving and while the exhaust/catalytic converter system is cool, inspect it to see no debris is clinging to it.
- Carry a fire extinguisher in the vehicle.
Driving vehicles or parking on dry, tall grass is a primary threat. Grass can ignite within seconds of contacting a hot surface, such as a vehicle’s exhaust/catalytic converter systems.
Nebraska’s pheasant, quail and partridge seasons open Oct. 29 and run through Jan. 31, 2023. The November firearm deer season runs from Nov. 12-20, 2022.
Game and Parks awarded grant to conserve wetlands for at-risk species
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has been awarded a competitive grant to work with conservation organizations and private landowners to conserve wetlands on two parcels of land in south-central Nebraska. Conservation efforts will benefit the endangered whooping crane and the threatened eastern black rail, as well as common bird and wetland species.
The two properties will remain privately owned and will remain in agricultural production, as nonprofit organizations work with the landowners to conserve habitat.
The Nebraska Crane Trust will partner with the property owner on a 285-acre parcel along the Platte River in Hall County. Wetlands America Trust will partner with the landowner to manage a 95-acre parcel in the Rainwater Basin in Clay County.
The nearly $600,000 award by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the Department of the Interior, comes from the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund’s Recovery Land Acquisition grant program. Nebraska, 15 other states and Guam were awarded grants to conserve at-risk species through programs focused on habitat conservation.
The grant is authorized by the Endangered Species Act and partially funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Catch these Game and Parks education events in November
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission educators have scheduled interesting and engaging events for the curious in November. Here are some opportunities:
Little Saplings early childhood program presents Look at Leaves
Adults looking to explore the outdoors with their young children are invited to Little Saplings, a monthly early childhood nature discovery program at Schramm Education Center near Gretna.
The series, which continues Nov. 2 with the theme Look at Leaves, is at 9 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month, through December. It is designed for children ages 2-5 and their adult caregiver.
See the calendar event entry at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for more information.
Homeschool Hike set for Nov. 16 at Schramm Park SRA
Homeschool families are invited to join an outdoor educator on a guided hike at Schramm Park State Recreation Area near Gretna during the Homeschool Hikes program Nov. 16.
This nature exploration program geared for homeschool families takes place at 9 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month, through December. While an educator leads the hike, participants ask questions, draw, observe and make discoveries in nature.
Visit the event listing at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for more information and to register.
Nebraska Nature Nerd Trivia Night scheduled for Nov. 9
Join the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as it hosts Nebraska Nature Nerd Trivia Night at Cosmic Eye Brewing in Lincoln on Nov. 9.
Cosmic Eye, located at 6800 P St., Ste. 300, will host the event, which will focus on invasive species, exotic animals and animals that run rampant in Nebraska, at 7 p.m.
Get your teams of no more than five players and be ready to compete for prizes. These events are for adults only and are free to attend with a purchase from the brewery.
For more information and or questions, email [email protected].
‘The Science of …’ virtual webinar series continues
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s virtual webinar series “The Science of …” continues in November. Every Thursday at 3 p.m. Central time, Game and Parks educators will discuss the science behind common things regarding nature and animals. The topics are: Nov. 3 – Insect Antennae; Nov. 10 – Catfish.
The webinars are free, but separate registration is required for each. See the calendar event entries at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for registration links.
Contact [email protected] for more information.
Nature Nerd Night to feature carnivores on Nov. 15
In the Nebraska Nature Nerd Night virtual webinar Carnivore Ecology, outdoor educators will explore how carnivores have shaped our prehistoric and current world here in Nebraska. The free event starts at 7 p.m. Central time Nov. 15.
Registration is required through the event listing at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov. Participants also may submit questions to be answered during the webinar while registering.
For more information, contact [email protected] or follow the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission or Nebraska Wildlife Education on Facebook.
Wildcat Hills to host Turkey Talk homeschool program
Discover the unique characteristics of turkeys and how they communicate with each other during the Wildcat Hills Homeschool Program Turkey Talk on Nov. 10 at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area.
This program meets once a month at 10 a.m. Mountain time at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center.
The program is free, but a vehicle park entry permit is required. For more information contact the Nature Center at 308-436-3777. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Wildcat Tales preschool program is Nov. 15
Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area will host the monthly Wildcat Tales preschool program Nov. 15.
The program Web Walkers, which will explore spiders, will meet at the Nature Center at 10 a.m. Mountain time. There will be a lesson plan, story and hands-on activity specifically targeted for children ages 2-6 years.
The program is free, but a vehicle park entry permit is required. For more information contact the Nature Center at 308-436-3777. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Family Nature Nights scheduled Nov. 8, 22
Bring the family and enjoy some unstructured outdoor exploration Nov. 8 and 22 at the Outdoor Classroom, located at the northeast district office of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in Norfolk.
This free program is for all ages. It will be from 6-8 p.m. both nights at the Outdoor Classroom, 2201 N. 13th St. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Visit the event listings at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for more information and to register.
Webinar to discuss cultural, historical interpretation
Join a free, virtual webinar panel discussion on cultural and historical interpretation at 12:30 p.m. Central time Nov. 9.
Hear from professional cultural and historical interpreters representing state, federal and community interpretation sites across Nebraska on successful methods used in interpreting cultural and historical resources in Nebraska.
Visit the event listing at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for registration and more information.
Missouri River watershed subject of educator workshop
Educators are invited to Ponca State Park for Discover a Watershed: The Missouri.
This workshop for formal and informal educators at 10 a.m. Nov. 19 will explore how to engage students in this watershed. Instructors will take a closer look at how environmental stewardship and conservation strategies can be used to address the complex issues facing the Missouri Basin.
This workshop includes an educator’s guide, with 36 activities that cover the Missouri Basin’s hydrology, geology, cities, agriculture, recreation, plant and animal species, stewardship and more.
This is a free workshop (a park entry permit is required), but registration is required. Visit the event listing at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov to register or for more information.
Veterans Appreciation Day at Platte River SP on Nov. 12
Platte River State Park will host Veterans Appreciation Day on Nov. 12. The first 50 visitors with a military ID will receive a token for one free shooting activity at the Roger G. Sykes Outdoor Heritage Complex from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Instructors will be available for trap shooting, .22 rifles, pellet guns, archery, tomahawks and slingshots. There also will be naturalists at the event with outdoor learning activities.
See a listing of more education events at Nebraska’s Venture Parks at outdoornebraska.gov/ventureparks.
Kissinger WMA closed until further notice
Kissinger Wildlife Management Area is temporarily closed effective immediately due to the presence of two endangered whooping cranes. The closure will be lifted once the cranes have left the area.
Kissinger WMA is about 1 mile north of Fairfield in Clay County.
The closure is a standard procedure for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission once whooping cranes are confirmed on a property owned or managed by the agency. The property will be monitored for activity.
“We value the outdoor opportunities our properties provide to hunters and other recreationists, but our WMAs also provide valuable habitat to an array of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species,” said Alicia Hardin, the Commission’s wildlife division administrator. “This temporary closure is intended to not only protect whooping cranes, but to also protect the public from accidentally disturbing or harming the birds, which is illegal under federal and state law.”
Whooping cranes are protected by both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Penalties for killing, possessing or harassing whooping cranes or other species protected under these laws may include fines of up to $50,000, up to a year in jail, or both.
Whooping cranes are an endangered species and their wild population totals fewer than 600 individuals. The entire population migrates through Nebraska each spring and fall between wintering sites along the Texas coast and breeding areas in northern Alberta.
Waterfowl hunters can find alternative pumped wetlands nearby; find information at OutdoorNebraska.gov/WaterfowlChecklist under the wetland conditions tab, where Game and Parks lists pumping plans and status for federal- and state-managed wetlands.
For more information on whooping cranes, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/WhoopingCrane.
Commissioners approve Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation Plan
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved a five-year plan to recruit, retain and reactivate outdoor enthusiasts at its Oct. 21 meeting in Broken Bow.
This 2023-2027 Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation Plan provides goals, objectives and strategies to help Game and Parks engage outdoor participants in outdoor opportunities.
The plan is focused on boating, fishing, hunting, parks, and shooting sports, as well as on maintaining widespread support for conservation and recreation.
At the meeting in the Broken Bow Public Library, commissioners also approved changes to wildlife regulations that:
- added the Pine Ridge Mule Deer Conservation Area to the list of draw units, added nonresident antelope archery permit to the list of antelope draw permits, and allowed nonresident archery antelope hunters to either apply for a preference point or the archery permit;
- added turkeys to the list of animals that must be checked within 48 hours of being harvested; and
- added language to allow hunters, beginning with the 2023 spring season, to cancel and check their electronic turkey permits on their mobile devices immediately after harvest.
Commissioners approved a change to fisheries regulations to simplify the application process for Special Fishing Permits for disabled anglers and allow annual renewals to be purchased through the online permit system.
They also approved changes to Sportfishing Orders that:
- added Ansley Lake, Flanagan Lake, Alda DOT, Birdwood WMA, East Sutherland WMA and removed Victoria Springs Lake SRA from the waters that require a 21-inch minimum length on black bass;
- changed the location designated on the Republican River above Harlan County Reservoir for bag limits on channel catfish and size limits on walleye, sauger and saugeye;
- removed the catch-and-release designation for Flanagan Lake, established a no-harvest restriction on northern pike, and created maximum length limits for bluegill, redear sunfish and crappie; and
- added walleye to the species prohibited to have in possession on Lonergan Creek at Lake McConaughy and added Otter Creek to the restrictions and established the timeframe of April 1 through June 30.
Commissioners also approved changes to assorted boating regulations regarding references to personal floatation devices, vessel weight limits, and updating lists of water bodies for wake/no wake rules and boating hours, towing and other boating safety restrictions. Learn more by reading the Public Hearing Notice at OutdoorNebraska.gov/pubicnotices.
In other business, the commissioners heard reports on Game and Parks’ Capital Maintenance Fund, an update on the fall season in the state parks, and an overview of the City of Kearney’s new whitewater park.
The commissioners recognized Commissioner Bob Allen of Eustis, whose term on the board is ending this year, for his eight years of leadership.
The Haumont family of Broken Bow was recognized for its contributions in running the annual Nebraska Youth Smallbore Silhouette Invitational at Pressey Wildlife Management Area in Custer County.
The Commission also approved it 2023 meeting schedule: Jan. 19-20, Lincoln; March 16-17, Kearney; April 20-21, Fremont; June 8-9, Alma; Aug. 3-4, Valentine; Oct. 12-13, Fort Robinson State Park.