Outdoor notes: Locate check stations; Chronic wasting disease; and more

LINCOLN, Neb. – Those who plan to hunt the November firearm deer season are reminded to locate a check station ahead of their hunt. There have been several changes to the list of available check stations since last season.

Firearm deer hunters and archers harvesting deer during the Nov. 10-18 firearm season must deliver their deer to a check station no later than 1 p.m. on the day following the close of the season.

The following are new locations of check stations, by region:

Northwest District – Harrison, Harrison House Hotel, 115 Main St.

Southwest District – Arapahoe, Tornado Alley, 1212 W. Chestnut St.; Benkelman, Dundy County Sherriff’s Office, 701 Chief St.; Cambridge, BC Original Graphics, 102 Paxton St.; Hayes Center, Farkleberry’s, 101 Troth St.; Hastings, Ampride South, 1410 W. J St.

Northeast District – Fremont, Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area park office, 4349 W. State Lakes Rd.; Burwell, PK Meat Company, 190 N. Neb. Hwy. 11; Butte, Firehouse Cafe, 610 Thayer St.

Southeast District – Crete, Lester’s Shop, 1575 Blue Acres St.

Two locations in the Southeast District no longer have check stations – Lincoln’s Shuster’s Meats and Omaha’s Nebraska Game and Parks Commission office.

To find a complete list of available check stations, as well as a map, visit Outdoornebraska.gov/deer. More information on checking deer also is available there in the 2018 Big Game Guide.

Samples collected from some deer will be tested for CWD

LINCOLN, Neb. – Samples to be tested for chronic wasting disease (CWD) will be collected at check stations in north-central, central and northwest Nebraska during the November firearm deer hunting season.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff will collect lymph nodes from select harvested deer during the Nov. 10-18 season from the Pine Ridge, Plains, Sandhills, Keya Paha, Calamus West and Loup West management units.

The goal of this sampling effort is to assess the spread and prevalence of CWD through periodic testing in each region of the state, which will help biologists predict when and where future effects on deer numbers may occur. Testing will take place in other regions of the state in the next several years.

Other hunters outside of the sampling area may have their deer tested for CWD, for a fee, by the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lincoln.

Although present in Colorado and Wyoming for several decades, CWD was first discovered in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County. Since 1997, Game and Parks staff have tested nearly 51,000 deer and found 499 that tested positive. CWD has been found in 40 Nebraska counties, but no population declines attributable to the disease have yet occurred.

CWD is prion disease that attacks the brain of infected deer and elk, eventually causing emaciation, listlessness, excessive salivation and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no person is known to have contracted CWD; however, hunters should cautiously handle and process deer and avoid consuming animals that test positive or look sick. Livestock and other animals not in the deer family do not appear susceptible to CWD.

Hunters can help prevent the spread of CWD by using proper carcass disposal methods. CWD prions, the infectious proteins that transmit the disease, can remain viable for months or even years in the soil. Hunters should field dress animals at the place of kill, avoid spreading spinal cord or brain tissue to meat, and dispose of the head (brain), spinal column and other bones at a licensed landfill.

Learn more about CWD at OutdoorNebraska.gov/cwd/.

Public invited to Fort Kearny design charrette open house on Nov. 8

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will host an open house Nov. 8 about possible future development at Fort Kearny State Historical Park and State Recreation Area.

The open house will take place in Kearney from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Younes Conference Center in the Diamond Room No. 7, 416 Talmadge St.

The open house concludes a two-day design charrette held in Kearney. A design charrette is a planning session where citizens and stakeholders collaborate on the vision of a development project. The open house will allow the public to review the suggestions, ideas, drawings and other plans developed during the charrette, as well as to ask questions and provide additional input.

Following the open house, the design team will refine the information and drawings with the input received from the public and produce a final document that can be used in future planning and potential development at Fort Kearny. There is no formal presentation during the open house, so public is welcome to attend any time from 5-6:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Game and Parks’ Michelle Stryker at michelle.stryker@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5425.

Game and Parks to sell deer permits over Veterans Day weekend

LINCOLN, Neb. – Most Nebraska Game and Parks Commission offices will be open for additional hours to accommodate deer permit purchasers on the opening weekend of the firearm season.

The nine-day firearm season opens Saturday, Nov. 10. Veterans Day will be observed on Monday, Nov. 12.

Two Game and Parks locations – the Alliance office and Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium – will be open for permit sales on Nov. 12. All other offices will be closed on Nov. 12.

Offices in Alliance, Lincoln, North Platte, Bassett, Norfolk and Kearney, as well as the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium, will be open Nov. 10, tentatively from 8 a.m. to noon. The Omaha office will not be open on either day.

Permits may also be purchased online at OutdoorNebraska.org or from participating vendors. A complete list of vendors may be found on our website at OutdoorNebraska.org/permitvendors.

Make cash donation to Hunters Helping the Hungry

LINCOLN, Neb. – Hunters can make a cash donation to the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) program when they purchase their 2018 deer permit.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission seeks cash donations to HHH so it can continue to feed Nebraskans in need by providing ground venison. Each dollar donated provides two meals of ground venison.

HHH is funded entirely by tax-deductible cash donations from hunters, businesses and individuals. HHH contracts with processors, who prepare and package ground venison from donated deer. Charitable organizations then pick up and distribute venison to Nebraskans.

Hunters who offer deer for donation pay no processing fee if it is accepted. But HHH might have to accept fewer deer because funds are lower, reducing the number of meals provided to Nebraskans in need.

For more information about HHH or to make a cash donation, visit http://outdoornebraska.gov/hhh.

Hunters take to the field on pheasant opener

LINCOLN, Neb. – Hunters from around the country returned to rural Nebraska on Oct. 27-28 to partake in a coveted outdoor tradition – upland bird hunting during the 2018 season opener.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff contacted 1,040 hunters across the state while making bag checks. These hunters harvested 418 pheasants and 89 quail. An additional 781 hunters were encountered on pheasant-release sites on 13 wildlife management areas (WMAs). These hunters bagged 517 pheasants. More than 80 percent of roosters harvested on release sites were pen-released birds.

Based on field reports, hunter success on pheasants was highest in southwest and northeast regions of the state. Good quail numbers were reported throughout the southern half of the state but very few hunters were specifically targeting bobwhites. Compared to 2017, hunter success on the opening weekend was slightly higher for pheasants and similar for bobwhites. Hunting pressure was relatively low across the state.

According to John Laux, Game and Parks’ upland habitat and access program manager, the best is yet to come. “As harvest progresses, birds will be more concentrated in cover types that are more accessible to hunters,” he said.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report showed that the Nebraska corn harvest was 47 percent complete on the opening weekend of the season, compared to 42 last year and the five-year average of 55. The soybean harvest was 74 percent complete, compared to 86 last year and the five-year average of 90.

Cooler weather in the coming weeks also will aid hunter success. Portions of Nebraska had daytime highs in the high 70s and low 80s on opening day, and reports indicate hunting activity decreased substantially by early afternoon both days. “Cooler temperatures typically improve scenting conditions and will allow you and your dog to spend more time afield,” Laux said.

The following is a report of hunting activity by district:

Southwest – Cool temperatures and light winds provided favorable conditions on opening morning, Saturday, Oct. 27, but hunter activity declined sharply by midday as temperatures reached the low 80s across much of the region. It was dry Sunday, with moderate winds and slightly cooler temperatures. Field reports indicated that corn harvest was between 5-40 percent complete but this was highly variable. Many soybean and sorghum fields were also unharvested. Officers observed fewer hunters than expected. Contact was made with 669 hunters, who harvested 304 pheasants and 59 quail. Law enforcement contacted an additional 290 hunters on pheasant-release sites at Pressey, Sherman Reservoir and Cornhusker WMAs. These hunters harvested 206 pheasants. Hunter success on pheasants was highly variable among parties but was highest in the extreme southwest counties. Reported quail harvest was highest in southeastern counties but very few hunters were specifically pursuing quail.

Southeast – Outside of the pheasant-release sites, hunting pressure and success were relatively low on public and private lands. Many hunters reported seeing good numbers of quail but relatively few were bagged. Several officers reported that nearly every hunter they encountered had flushed at least one covey. Contact was made with 103 hunters, who harvested 24 pheasants and 30 quail. On seven pheasant-release sites, law enforcement contacted an additional 311 hunters, who harvested 213 pheasants.

Northeast – Public lands in Antelope and Knox counties were popular and hunters reported seeing good numbers of birds. Cool morning temperatures provided good hunting conditions, but the abundance of standing crops appeared to hamper hunter success. Field reports suggest soybean and corn harvest were approximately 50-70 percent and 10-40 percent complete, respectively. Contact was made with 155 hunters, who harvested 59 pheasants. Law enforcement contacted an additional 180 hunters on pheasant-release sites at Oak Valley, George Syas and Wilkinson WMAs, where 98 pheasants were harvested. Hunters observed fewer quail compared to recent years.

Northwest – Most hunters were observed hunting public lands, including WMAs and Open Fields and Waters (OFW) properties. Law enforcement contacted 113 hunters, who harvested 31 pheasants. Hunters in the northern Panhandle reported seeing good numbers of pheasants but hunter success was highly variable. Officers estimated that only 10-20 percent of the corn in this region had been harvested. In the southern Panhandle, the corn harvest was nearly 50 percent, but hunter activity and success were both relatively low. Most hunters were observed using tall wheat stubble fields enrolled in OFW and reported seeing fewer birds than in previous years.

Pheasant, quail and prairie grouse seasons continue through Jan. 31. Permits can be purchased at OutdoorNebraska.org.

Women’s mentored squirrel hunt set for Dec. 7-8

LINCOLN, Neb. – Women age 16 and up are invited to participate in mentored squirrel hunt and workshop Dec. 7-8 at the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center in Lincoln.

The event sponsored by the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Program includes a workshop and rifle sight-in on the first day and a hunt on a nearby wildlife management area the next day.

The fee is $30. Visit Outdoornebraska.gov/bow to register by the Dec. 1 deadline. Contact Julie Plugge for more information at julia.plugge@nebraska.gov or 402-471-6009.

Safely enjoy firearm deer hunting opportunities this season

LINCOLN, Neb. – The November firearm deer season is one of the most anticipated times of the year for Nebraska hunters. Despite the many opportunities across the state to harvest a deer this season, hunter safety in the field remains critical.

“Hunting remains one of the safest activities to participate in, but there are always a few key things to consider while afield,” said Nebraska Hunter Education Coordinator Jackson Ellis.

— Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction, safety on, and finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

— Properly identify your target and what lies beyond it before pulling the trigger; never shoot at sounds or movement.

— All deer hunters are required to wear 400 square inches of blaze orange on their head, chest and back during the November firearm season, regardless if they are hunting with a firearm or archery tackle.

— Be sure to unload firearms before travelling in a motorized vehicle and before crossing obstacles such as barbed-wire fences, creeks or steep embankments.

— When hunting from a tree stand or elevated platform, always maintain three points of contact when ascending or descending, pull gear up with a haul line, and wear a Fall Arrest System (safety harness).

“The tradition of deer hunting in Nebraska continues to be a fun, safe activity with great opportunities at finding success in all corners of the state,” Ellis said. “Have fun out there, and hunt safe!”

The firearm deer season is Nov. 10-18. Buy permits at OutdoorNebraska.org.

Participate in Deer Exchange to donate or receive venison

LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraskans who want to donate or receive harvested deer can participate in the Deer Exchange.

This program is designed to accommodate the additional harvest of deer. It brings together hunters who have a surplus of deer with recipients willing to accept the deer meat.

The Deer Exchange, which is available annually from Sept. 1 through March 1, allows hunters and potential venison recipients to join a database and search for other participating parties in their area. Parties will work out the details of the transfer. While the venison cannot be sold, recipients may pay for the processing or butchering of the meat. Donors and recipients can register online for free.

Recipients will have the choice of accepting whole field dressed deer, skinned and boned deer, wrapped and frozen deer or processed meat. Donors are responsible for properly field dressing and checking deer at a check station before transfer.

When transferring game animals, the hunter must provide the following information on a transfer tag: name, phone number, permit number or seal number, estimated weight of meat (in pounds), species of animal, date taken, signature of donor and name of recipient. A transfer tag is available on page 44 of the 2018 Big Game Guide. Go to Outdoornebraska.gov/guides.

To join the Deer Exchange or view participants, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/deerexchangeprogram.

Ten hunters have completed Nebraska Upland Slam

LINCOLN, Neb. – Ten hunters have completed the Nebraska Upland Slam as of Oct. 30, conquering the challenge to harvest four species of upland game birds in the state.

Those who have completed the Slam are: Patrick Breitkreutz, Ord; Mark Frickel, North Platte; Wayne Hahn, Aurora; Aaron Herring, Alma; Charles Krysl, McCook; John Laux, Alma; Ken Loth, Omaha; Glenn Obermeier, Aurora; Brad Snyder, Aurora; and Chris Varney, Ansley.

The Nebraska Upland Slam concept is simple: Hunters must harvest a ring-necked pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie-chicken and northern bobwhite in Nebraska. Those who complete the Slam will receive an official certificate and pin and will be entered into a drawing to win prizes, including a Browning Silver 12-gauge shotgun.

Three of the Upland Slams were accomplished on private land, two on public land and five on a combination of both.

“Congratulations to the hunters who have achieved the Nebraska Upland Slam,” Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Director Jim Douglas said. “Nebraska has abundant upland game hunting opportunities, and this new challenge is just one more reason to spend time in the field with friends and family while sharing new adventures.”

Since the Upland Slam began in September, 136 hunters have submitted 248 harvested birds. The hunting seasons for all four species continues through Jan. 31. Permits can be purchased at OutdoorNebraska.org.

The Upland Slam is sponsored by Game and Parks, Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org/UplandSlam for more information, official rules and entry details.

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