Outdoor notes: 13-year-old Aiden Helms is first youngster to achieve upland slam

Outdoor notes: 13-year-old Aiden Helms is first youngster to achieve upland slam
Photo Courtesy: Chris Helms

It wasn’t easy for Aiden Helms to achieve the Nebraska upland slam.

He walked almost 11 hilly miles in the Sandhills to bag the sharp-tailed grouse. He and his dad camped out in a snowstorm in Halsey National Forest. He was rattled a few times when pheasants burst from cover.

But when the 13-year-old, who attends Holdrege Middle School, summed up the experience, he said it was all good.

“It was just fun to get the birds,” he said.

Helms was the first youngster to complete the slam, which includes bagging a pheasant, quail, grouse and prairie chicken.

He’s one of the 123 hunters overall to accomplish the slam. The second youngster to finish was Tyler Douglass.

Helms was accompanied by his dad, Chris, and 8-year-old Brittany, Molly. She gets the lion’s share of credit for the slam, dad says.

“Without a dog you wouldn’t be able to do any of that. It would be impossible,” he said. “For a bird dog 8 years old, that’s probably their best year.”

Aiden accomplished the task before older brother Alex, who has some time constraints because of his school obligations at Northeast Community College. He’s short a prairie chicken.

Aiden also got a little bit of a history lesson when he bagged his quail on land north and west of Arapahoe that was once homesteaded by his great -great -great-grandparents.

“His quail was about 50 yards from where I got my first pheasant in 1982, and probably where my dad got his,” Chris Helms said. “It’s sort of been a family tradition.”

The prairie chicken was from a federal wetland near Holdrege, the sharp-tailed grouse came from Halsey and the pheasant was from ground enrolled in the Game and Parks walk-in hunting program.

The grouse took several attempts. Aiden nabbed it on the third camping trip.

Chris Helms thinks the slam is a good idea.

“Kids that age like challenges,” he said. “This was kind of a good thing for a kid that age.”

First-time participants may register for Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshop

LINCOLN, Neb. – The annual Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshop, sponsored by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, gives women the opportunity to learn outdoor skills in a comfortable environment.

This year’s workshop is Oct. 4-6 at Ponca State Park. Registration is open for first-time participants in this weekend getaway for women 18 years and older. Former participants may sign up starting April 1.

Participants choose from a variety of activities, including hiking, kayaking, firearm safety, fishing, fly-fishing, bowfishing, camping, rifle marksmanship, shotgunning, deer and turkey hunting, photography, bird identification and more. Plenty of social time is built into the schedule, too, while participants learn alongside like-minded women in a friendly, non-intimidating and noncompetitive environment.

Visit NebraskaBOW.com for more information or to get a registration form.

Tax season provides opportunity to support Nebraska wildlife conservation

LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraskans receiving a tax refund this year have an opportunity to support wildlife and habitat conservation.

On Line 45 of the Nebraska state income tax form, individuals may donate all or part of their tax refund to the Nebraska Wildlife Conservation Fund, which helps the thousands of species in Nebraska that are not hunted or fished, particularly those that are rare, endangered or threatened.

Tax refund donations have benefited many species over the years, including river otters, monarch butterflies, swift fox, peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Donations are used to maintain and improve habitat for these and many other nongame animals, as well as to provide wildlife viewing and other educational opportunities for Nebraskans. Additional information is available online at NebraskaWildlifeFund.org.

For taxpayers not entitled to a state tax refund, contributions can be made online at NebraskaWildlifeFund.org or by mail to: Nebraska Wildlife Conservation Fund, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, P.O. Box 30370, 2200 N. 33rd Street, Lincoln, NE 68503.

‘Wildlife and Watercolors’ program set at Wildcat Hills

GERING, Neb. – The public is invited to express appreciation for wildlife by watercolor painting during an upcoming program at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center. “Wildlife and Watercolors,” the next installment of the center’s Wildcat Weekend series of events, will be Saturday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m.

Amanda Filipi, outdoor education specialist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said the event is designed for all ages and is especially ideal for anyone looking to start a new hobby. She said experienced watercolor painters will help with the event and the first 15 people to register get to take home a 12-by-12-inch canvas of their work.

“We’ll talk about some of the wild animals we might see in this area and give people some ideas of ones they can paint,” she said. “And we’ll give people the basics of painting with watercolor.”

Filipi said many artists have created beautiful wildlife artwork from watercolor and hopes that attendees will be inspired to do the same.

“There is a lot of great watercolor wildlife art out there and we hope people will gain a new appreciation for art and nature through this medium,” she said.

The event has a $10 fee for supplies and the deadline to register is Feb. 1. To register, call 308-436-3777.

The center is located at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area south of Gering, which requires a Nebraska Park Entry Permit for vehicles.

Other Upcoming Wildcat Weekend Events:

— Snipe: Reality or Legend?, March 9
— Earth Day, April 13
— Wildlands Day/Free Park Entry Day, May 18
— Wildflower Walk, June 7
— Water Wonders, July 13
— Night Sky, Aug. 10
— Birds and Bagels, Sept. 14
— Lovin’ Dutch Oven, Oct. 12
— Bighorn Sheep Hike, Nov. 2
— Nature’s Gifts: Decorations from the Great Outdoors, Dec. 14

South Subunit mountain lion season closed effective immediately

LINCOLN, Neb. – The mountain lion harvest season in the South Subunit of the Pine Ridge is closed effective immediately, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The harvest limit of four mountain lions (one female and three males) has been reached. The close of the season has been posted on Game and Parks’ mountain lion harvest season webpage (outdoornebraska.gov/mountainlionhunting) and 1-800 number that hunters are required to check before hunting mountain lions each day.

The harvest season in the North Subunit of the Pine Ridge remains open to people with permits for that area. No mountain lions have been harvested in that unit. The season in the North Subunit will close when four total mountain lions, or two females, are harvested, whichever occurs first.

Memphis Lake wetland restoration project to begin Jan. 29

LINCOLN, Neb. – Construction is set to begin Jan. 29 on the Memphis Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) wetland restoration project.

Memphis Lake State Recreation Area (SRA) and WMA is located just northwest of Memphis in Saunders County. The contract was awarded to Pruss Excavation Co. of Dodge, Nebraska. Heavy equipment will be operating on site, so the public is urged to avoid the area around and north of County Road D, which separates the SRA from the WMA.

The SRA will remain open for day use and ice-fishing on the lake. Portions of the WMA may be closed to public access at times to ensure the safety of anyone in the area.

The project will include installation of a water-control structure, which will allow the wetland to be drawn down for vegetation management, tree removal, filling in level ditches where water has concentrated and trees and bushes have grown, and grading the wetland bottom to increase the variety of water depths. Eventually, an accessible hunting blind will be built on a jetty extending off the west berm.

The wetland restoration project, a joint effort of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Nebraska Environmental Trust and Ducks Unlimited, is expected to improve wildlife habitat, increase wetland management capabilities, and improve hunter access. The project should benefit many species that use the wetland, including waterfowl and shorebirds.

February outdoor calendar

LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) events and important dates in February. Get more event details at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org for a list of hunter education classes and boating safety classes.

Feb. 2 – Birds and Binoculars, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (SP), Ashland

Feb. 2 – Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, Winter Wildlife Tracking, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

Feb. 6, 23 – Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, Rod and Reel Repair, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

Feb. 9 – Wildlife and Watercolors, Wildcat Hills Nature Center, Gering

Feb. 9 – Pheasants Forever State Habitat Meeting, Kearney

Feb. 9-14 – Valentine’s Day Special, Eugene T. Mahoney SP, Ashland

Feb. 10 – Dark goose hunting season closes in East, Platte River, Panhandle and Niobrara units

Feb. 10 – Statewide light goose hunting season closes

Feb. 10 – White-fronted goose season closes

Feb. 11 – Fisheries public informational meeting, Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, Omaha

Feb. 11 – Light Goose Conservation Order hunting begins

Feb. 12 – Fisheries public informational meeting, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

Feb. 14-15 – Valentine’s Dinner, Platte River SP, Louisville

Feb. 15-16 – Birds and Breakfast, Ponca SP, Ponca

Feb. 15-17 – Valentine’s Day Special, Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area (SRA), Crofton

Feb. 19 – Growing Up WILD Educator Workshop, Elkhorn Valley Museum, Norfolk

Feb. 21 – Growing Up WILD Educator Workshop, Tabitha Health Care Services, Lincoln

Feb. 21 – Project WILD/Aquatic WILD Educator Workshop, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Feb. 25 – Fisheries public informational meeting, Niobrara Lodge, Valentine

Feb. 26 – Fisheries public informational meeting, Central Community College, Lexington

Feb. 26 – Project WILD/Aquatic WILD Educator Workshop, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Feb. 27 – Project WILD/Aquatic WILD Educator Workshop, Creighton University, Omaha

Feb. 28 – Prescribed burn training workshop, Tub’s Pub, Sumner

Feb. 28 – Cottontail and jackrabbit hunting seasons close

Feb. 28 – Bobcat, raccoon, Virginia opossum, long-tailed weasel, mink, red fox, gray fox and badger hunting and trapping seasons close

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