Tom Leininger participated in the 2023 Nebraska Upland Slam with the shotgun he bought in 1980. After winning the grand prize in this annual challenge, he is looking forward to future hunts.

The Aurora hunter, who has never used another shotgun, now owns a Franchi 12-gauge shotgun, the grand prize in the Upland Slam.

“The Franchi will definitely be used next year,” said Leininger, 61.

The Upland Slam challenges hunters to harvest a ring-necked pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie-chicken and northern bobwhite quail in Nebraska during the season. The slam is a partnership between the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever of Nebraska.

The sixth year of the Upland Slam gave 134 hunters, including three youth, a reason to take advantage of the state’s excellent opportunities and growing availability of publicly accessible land. In the slam, hunters upload photos of their harvest to a website and share information about their hunting experience. The 75 finishers of the slam, which also came from six other states, became eligible for the prize drawings and received an official certificate and pin. Visit and search “Upland Slam” to find the names of all hunters who successfully completed the slam.

“The Upland Slam is something I would encourage all hunters to participate in,” said Leininger, who has completed five slams with Cocoa, his German Shorthair.

Leininger is an advocate for public lands. “I would estimate over 95% of my hunting is on public land,” he said. “It is great to have so much good public land to hunt. Without the public land, pheasant hunting, in Nebraska, would be very slim.”

Other prize winners are Patrick Lechner of Syracuse, who won a Pheasants Forever print, and Nick Muller of Blair, who won a Quail Forever Solo stove.

One hunter, Ross Oberg, of Minden, completed the slam in one day in December. He shot his sharptail and prairie chicken on Open Fields and Waters land in the Sandhills, then harvested a pheasant and quail on a wildlife management area after heading back toward home.

“We've completed the Upland Slam before, but usually over the course of several hunts throughout the season,” said Oberg, who’d bagged his first two birds by 10 a.m. “It will be hard to top this late season hunt.”

Said Kelsi Wehrman, state coordinator for Nebraska Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever: “The Upland Slam has brought many new faces to the state and created an awareness to hunt a new species, such as grouse, for many Nebraska hunters. Congrats to all the finishers and their four-legged friends that helped make it happen.”

Panhandle parks receiving upgrades

Visitors will enjoy more than $1 million of recent upgrades to state park and recreation areas in the Panhandle this summer, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

At Fort Robinson State Park, the equestrian campground expansion began late last year and is expected to be complete for visitors this spring. Included will be 24 additional sites with hook-ups to 50-amp electricity, water and sewer, doubling the old campground’s size. Also new will be an adjacent 30-pen enclosure for stalling horses outside. That facility will complement the recently renovated historic Mare Barn, which also will be available for boarding horses.

Jim Miller, Fort Robinson superintendent, said contractors also are replacing the foundation of two of the old buildings that serve as lodging facilities on the north side of the park’s main premises of facilities. When the project is complete, they will be more stable and protected from the weather.

In addition, Fort Robinson employees are in the process of repairing the plumbing in Comanche Hall, a group lodging facility, and the Post Playhouse, home of the popular summer repertory theater. The playhouse also is undergoing a lighting upgrade.

At Chadron State Park, Superintendent Gregg Galbraith said the project to upgrade campsites to 50-amp service should be finished before visitation increases this spring. When complete, all of the park’s paved campsites will have 50 amps to accommodate the demands of modern campers.

Galbraith said two of the park’s cabins have received major repairs and five of them are scheduled to be re-shingled. The park’s office received fresh paint and carpet, and a boost of its gift shop inventory. 

Also recently, the Pinecone Shelter was replaced, as well as one of the hiking bridges over Chadron Creek.

Late last year, contractors at Box Butte State Recreation Area added 20 new campsites and installed a new shower house. Superintended Robert Hughes said they are expected to be ready for use before visitation picks up.

Dan Thornton, superintendent at Lake Minatare State Recreation Area, said two new fish-cleaning stations were installed there, and a project recently began to replace siding, windows and doors on its maintenance shop. He said Bridgeport State Recreation Area will receive two new vault toilets.

These state park system projects and more largely have been funded by Capital Maintenance Funds, which were established by the Nebraska Legislature to help preserve Nebraska’s public outdoor recreation facilities and parklands; other state and federal funding sources; and Nebraska Game and Parks’ funds generated from user fees of the state park system.

Call ahead to check on fire bans at state parks

Some Nebraska state park and wildlife management areas are temporarily banning campfires as drought and wind conditions have triggered extreme fire danger.

Because of regularly changing conditions, guests should call state park areas prior to arrival to determine whether a fire ban is in effect. Parks will make determinations by working with local emergency managers and fire departments.

Open fires already are banned in wildlife management areas outside of fireplaces, grills or fire rings provided by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. However, signs will be posted if an area also is closed to camp or cook fires, which includes gas, propane or charcoal grills or similar devices.

State park areas will allow camp stoves using liquid or gas fuel as they reduce the likelihood of ash or hot charcoal being discarded before they are extinguished. These types of stoves also do not produce blowing embers, further reducing wildfire potential.

Those recreating in areas where campfires are allowed should use extreme caution and take precautions, including keeping fires small, contained in provided fire rings, always attending fires, and having a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby in case of spread. Campfires should be properly extinguished with water until all coals have cooled completely.

For more information, visit

Join Game and Parks in virtual discussion on fisheries in March

Join the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in a virtual discussion on fisheries management during meetings March 18-21.

These four regional public informational sessions – one for each Game and Parks Fisheries district – will provide local updates on the fishing outlook and special projects in respective areas. The informal, interactive gatherings will provide a chance for questions, dialogue and feedback.

The virtual meetings will take place on Zoom, a free app that can be downloaded to a web browser or mobile device. Participants will be encouraged to submit questions using Zoom’s Q&A feature.

The schedule: Southeast District, March 18; Southwest District, March 19; Northwest District, March 20; Northeast District, March 21. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. Central.

All sessions will be recorded and made available on Game and Parks’ YouTube channel for later viewing.

Registration is required and can be completed at, where a map of district boundaries can be found.

Deadline extended, activities added in Fish Art Contest

Good news for students entering the Nebraska Fish Art Contest, the deadline has been extended and additional activities are available to them.

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade can discover the outdoors by participating in the contest.

The 2024 contest, sponsored by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Wildlife Forever and Bass Pro Shops, now is accepting entries through March 31, 2024. Enter at

This free international art and writing competition gives young people the opportunity to highlight their artistic talents while learning about fish, fishing and aquatic conservation. Participants can win prizes and recognition in Nebraska and internationally.

Young artists create an original illustration of any fish species and submit a one-page creative writing detailing their species habitat and efforts to conserve it.

Entries are categorized in four grade levels: K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Educators nationwide use Fish On!, the State-Fish Art Lesson Plan, integrating the disciplines of science and art. Winners will be announced in May.

The additional new activities include the following Art of Conservation Lesson Plans: What is a Fish, Fish in My State, Fish Adaptation, Food Webs, Wetlands: Nature’s Filters, and Rivers: Shaping the Land.

“The Nebraska Fish Art Contest was especially popular last year, with students creating very creative and beautiful pieces works of art,” said Larry Pape, Game and Parks aquatic education specialist.

Two Rivers Trout Lake to open March 9; statewide stockings to follow

Spring has come early and Nebraskans are eager to fish. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is scheduling the release of rainbow trout in waters across the state this spring.

This will give anglers and families, especially at city ponds and lakes, additional angling opportunities for this popular species.

It starts March 9, opening day of the Trout Lake at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Douglas County. All trout caught in this lake must be harvested and not released. Anglers first must purchase from the park office a daily trout tag for $6. Each tag is good for a daily bag limit of four trout. A person may have up to three tags per day and 12 trout in possession. An adult angler may have two children under the age of 16 fishing under the authority of his/her tag, but the group bag limit still is limited to four trout per tag.

The Trout Lake (Lake No. 5) will be open from 7 a.m. to sunset each day. Anglers, except residents younger than age 16, must have a Nebraska fishing license. All vehicles entering the park must have a park entry permit. Anglers possessing trout on any other lake at Two Rivers must have a trout tag, as well. Anglers will be allowed to use one fishing rod and reel each.

Adults might enjoy it, but trout fishing is a great way to introduce children to fishing, too, because simple and inexpensive equipment may be used.

“Rainbow trout are especially good for new anglers because they will bite readily on anything, including corn, wadded up pieces of bread or worms, and are easy and safe to handle,” said Larry Pape, aquatic education specialist with Game and Parks. “You can use a simple spin-cast combo or a spinning rod and have a fun day catching trout.”

For resources to help beginners or even experienced anglers, visit Buy a fishing permit at

Stockings begin the week of March 4 when tiger trout – a hybrid of brown and brook trout – are released at the following: Chadron State Park Pond, 500 fish; Bessey Pond, Nebraska National Forest, Halsey, 500; Alliance Golf Course Pond, 300; Curtis Golf Course Pond, 150; and Rock Creek State Recreation Area Lake, Parks, 1,000.

The following is a schedule for rainbow trout set to be stocked, including quantities. Dates can change because of weather or unforeseen circumstances and times, where listed, are tentative:

March 11

  • CenturyLink Lake, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Ashland, 2,500
  • Gretna Crossing Pond, 200
  • Humboldt City Park Lake, 350
  • Pawnee City Pond, 300
  • Rotary Club Lake, Auburn, 800
  • Stanton Lake, Falls City, 200
  • Steinhart Park East Pond, Nebraska City, 800
  • Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area No. 2, Fremont, 4,500
  • Ponca SP Pond, Ponca, 750

March 12

  • Heartwell Park Lake, Hastings, 450
  • Suck’s Lake, Grand Island, 650
  • Lake Halleck, Papillion, 1,200
  • Weeping Water Pond 1, 1,500
  • Louisville SRA 1A, Louisville, 600
  • Fort Kearny SRA No. 6, Kearney, 1,200
  • Windmill SRA No. 2, Gibbon, 900
  • Ponca SP Pond, Ponca, 750

March 13

  • Geneva Pond, 300
  • Bethphage Pond, Axtell, 200
  • Holdrege City Lake, 800
  • North Morrill Pond, 2,250
  • Middle Morrill Pond, 450

March 14

  • Auble Pond, Ord, 750
  • Victoria Springs SRA Lake, Anselmo, 1,200
  • Carney Pond, O’Neill, 750
  • Terry’s Pit, Terrytown, 1,500
  • Riverside Park Pond, Scottsbluff, 900

March 16

  • Ta-Ha-Zouka Park Lake, Norfolk, 1,500 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Pawnee Park West Lake, Columbus, 1,500 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Neligh Park Pond, West Point, 800 at 10:30 a.m.
  • Holmes Lake, Lincoln, 4,000 at 1 p.m.
  • Lake Helen, Gothenburg, 2,000 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Plum Creek Park Lake, Lexington, 750 at 2 p.m.

March 18

  • David City Park Pond West, 600
  • Rock Creek SRA Lake, Parks, 500
  • Oxford City Lake, 150

March 19

  • North Platte I-80 Lake, 2,700

March 20

  • Bridgeport SRA Middle Lake, 2,000
  • Bridgeport SRA Northwest Lake, 1,400

Additional March rainbow trout stockings as time and weather permit

  • Lake Ogallala SRA, Ogallala, 10,000
  • Gracie Creek Pond, Burwell, 1,000
  • Elm Creek, Red Cloud, 500
  • East Branch of Verdigre Creek, Royal, 1,000
  • Two Rivers SRA No. 5 (Trout Lake), Waterloo, 10,500

April rainbow trout stockings as time and weather permit

  • East Branch of Verdigre Creek, Royal, 800
  • Two Rivers SRA No. 5 (Trout Lake), Waterloo, 6,000
  • Keller Park SRA No. 4, 250
  • Keller Park SRA No. 5, 400
  • Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area Sandpit, Royal, 50
  • Sand Springs, Plum Creek Valley WMA, 250
  • North Platte I-80 Lake, 2,700
  • Lake Ogallala SRA, Ogallala, 10,000
  • South Grable Pond, Fort Robinson SP, Crawford, 1,200
  • Middle Grable Pond, Fort Robinson SP, Crawford, 600
  • Gilbert-Baker WMA Pond, Harrison, 600
  • Chadron City Reservoir North, 1,700
  • Chadron City Reservoir South, 1,700
  • Chadron SP Pond, 500
  • North Morrill Pond, 2,250
  • Middle Morrill Pond, 450
  • Riverside Park Pond, Scottsbluff, 900
  • Bridgeport SRA Northwest Lake, 1,400
  • Terry’s Pit, Terrytown, 1,000
  • Bridgeport SRA Middle Lake, 2,000
  • Cherry Creek Diversion Pond, Fort Robinson SP, Crawford, 250
  • Laing Lake, Alliance, 1,000
  • Rock Creek SRA Lake, Parks, 1,500

For information on fish stocking online, including upcoming trout stocking dates, visit and search “Fish Stocking Database.”

Commissioners to consider 2024-2025 waterfowl recommendations

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider 2024-2025 waterfowl hunting season recommendations at its March 8 meeting in Hastings.

The meeting begins at 8 a.m. at the Hastings Convention Center, 2205 Osborne Drive E.

Staff will recommend creating a Veteran and Active-Duty Military waterfowl hunting season that would run concurrently with the Youth Hunting season. Participants would include veterans as defined in Section 101 of Title 38, United States Code, and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training).

The 2024-2025 Nebraska waterfowl recommendations are:

Early Teal:

Low Plains – Sept. 7-22

High Plains – Sept. 7-15

Daily bag limit – six; Possession limit – 18

Youth Hunt:

Zone 1 – Oct. 5-6

Zone 2 – Sept. 28-29

Zone 3 – Oct. 19-20

Zone 4 – Oct. 12-13

Daily bag – Tier 1: six ducks, with restrictions; Tier II: three ducks, any species, any sex; Possession limit – three times the daily bag limit

Veteran and Active-Duty Military:

Zone 1 – Oct. 5-6

Zone 2 – Sept. 28-29

Zone 3 – Oct. 19-20

Zone 4 – Oct. 12-13

Daily bag – Tier 1: six ducks, with restrictions; Tier II: three ducks, any species, any sex; Possession limit – three times the daily bag limit

Duck and Coot:

Zone 1 – Oct. 12-Dec. 24

Zone 2 – Oct. 5-Dec. 17 and Jan. 8-29 (High Plains)

Zone 3 – Oct. 26-Jan. 7 and Jan. 8-29 (High Plains)

Zone 4 – Oct. 19-Dec. 31

Daily bag – Tier 1: six ducks, with restrictions; Tier II: three ducks, any species, any sex; Possession limit – three times the daily bag limit

Dark Goose:

Platte River Unit – Oct. 28-Feb. 9

Niobrara Unit – Oct. 28-Feb. 9

North Central Unit – Oct. 5-Jan. 17

Daily bag limit – five; Possession limit – 15

White-fronted Goose:

Statewide – Oct. 5-Dec. 15 and Jan. 25-Feb. 9

Daily bag limit – two; Possession limit – six

Light Goose Regular Season:

Statewide – Oct. 5-Jan. 1 and Jan. 25-Feb. 9

Daily bag limit – 50; Possession limit – none

Light Goose Conservation Order:

East Zone – Feb. 10-April 15

West Zone – Feb. 10-April 5

Rainwater Basin Zone – Feb. 10-April 5

Daily bag and possession limits – none


Statewide – Oct. 12-Dec. 12 and Jan. 11-March 13

Daily bag and possession limits – none


Concurrent with teal, youth and regular duck season dates, plus,

Zone 1 – Feb. 25-March 10

Zone 2 – Low Plains: Feb. 25-March 10; High Plains: Concurrent with all duck season dates in High Plains Zone

Zone 3 – High Plains: Concurrent with all duck season dates in High Plains Zone

Zone 4 – Feb. 25-March 10

In other business, commissioners will consider:

  • wildlife regulation changes regarding threatened and endangered species, to reflect the changes in federal listing status to the interior least tern, northern long-eared bat, Colorado butterfly plant, eastern black rail, and American burying beetle;
  • a staff recommendation to approve a Board Resolution to sign the project agreement for the Transportation Alternatives Program, which would fund the surfacing of the Cowboy Trail from Rushville in Sheridan County to mile marker 400 near Chadron; and
  • a staff recommendation to approve the acquisition of 11 acres in Holt County as an addition to the O. Johnson Emerson Wildlife Management Area.

In addition, commissioners will hear reports on a Lake McConaughy creel survey and Game and Parks permit sales for 2023.

To view a complete agenda, visit and search for Public Notices.