Outdoor notes: Commissioners to consider changes to wild turkey seasons for 2023
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider recommendations for 2023 wild turkey hunting seasons at its June 17 meeting in Lexington.
The meeting begins at 8 a.m. Central time at the Holiday Inn Express, 2605 Plum Creek Parkway.
Turkey populations in Nebraska have declined 45% since their peak between 2008 to 2010. Because of that, staff will recommend changes to regulations and orders that include reducing the spring season personal permit limit from three to two, lowering the fall bag limit from two to one, shortening the fall season to Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, and requiring all turkeys be checked via phone or internet beginning with the Spring 2023 season.
Staff also will recommend a mountain lion season in the Pine Ridge similar to 2022, with a maximum harvest of four cats, with a sublimit of two females. The number of permits issued via lottery will be recommended to be lowered from 320 to 200 for the 2023 season. This change is an effort to boost hunter satisfaction by increasing the probability of a longer season. The harvest objective is to allow the mountain lion population to remain resilient and healthy, while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size. The most recent estimate for the Pine Ridge population from the 2021 genetic survey is 33 mountain lions.
The Commission also will consider approving a 2022 river otter trapping season. The proposed season would be Nov. 1, 2022, through Feb. 28, 2023, or close earlier once 125 otters have been harvested, all other checking requirements will remain the same as last year.
Additionally, the commissioners will consider changes to wildlife regulations that would:
- Allow for parcel identification numbers to be used on limited landowner hunting permits beginning January 2023.
- Make it unlawful to possess night vision scopes while hunting game animals and game birds.
- Clarify language to allow elk hunters to hunt with a centerfire rifle during the November firearm deer season.
- Add language to make it illegal to create a baited area on lands owned or controlled by Game and Parks.
- Make it mandatory to check all turkeys after Feb. 1, 2023.
- Allow antelope taken during the October firearm season to be checked in via telephone or internet.
- Clarify language that animals trapped must be removed when checking traps.
- Add the U.S. Forest Service to federal lands where it is unlawful to set body-gripping traps with a jaw spreader larger than 5 inches, with exceptions.
- Changing the Novice Hunter Education Program for upland game birds to be open to all ages and extend the dates.
- Clarify language in the Hunters Helping the Hungry program on record keeping and reimbursement processes.
In other business, staff will recommend changes to sportfishing regulations that would make it legal to possess and transport live grass carp and amend the list of water bodies where live baitfish may be possessed or used.
Staff also will provide a report on the Aquatic Habitat Program and an update on communications efforts in west-central Nebraska.
Trout in the Classroom applications being accepted
Trout in the Classroom, a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission educational opportunity for schools, is now accepting applications for the 2022-23 school year.
The interdisciplinary, science-based program invites classrooms to explore aquatic ecosystems, life cycles, water quality and the scientific process through raising trout eggs in their classroom. Students learn about life science, watersheds, data collection and analysis over the course of the spring semester.
Applications to participate in the program are due Aug. 31. Find the application at OutdoorNebraska.org/TroutInTheClassroom.
For those financially limited, scholarships are offered to support the cost of the trout tank and other specialized equipment needed to run the program. Scholarships are possible thanks to funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and Trout Unlimited Chapter 710.
Teachers who participate in the program are trained and provided curriculum that meets educational standards set by Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks also provides troubleshooting support throughout the program.
The course is capped by a field trip where students get to release the fish they’ve raised in a nearby waterbody.
Follow these safety tips when enjoying water recreation
As summer begins to heat up, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission would like to remind those enjoying water-based recreation to follow these safety reminders.
Never swim alone — Always swim with a buddy.
Pay attention — Avoid distractions and focus on those you are swimming with and the water. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children, according to the American Red Cross, and drownings can happen in seconds, as well as in shallow waters. Staying watchful — even of strong swimmers — is encouraged and the best way to respond quickly should an accident occur.
Wear a life jacket – Children especially should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, while swimming or wading in water, including swim areas at Nebraska state parks. Floats such as pool noodles, rafts, donuts and kick boards, are not intended to serve as life-saving devises; properly worn life jackets are.
In Nebraska, children under age 13 and anybody on a personal watercraft are required by law to wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. People being towed by a boat on skis, a tube, or other similar device, also must wear a life jacket. Every vessel, except sailboards, must carry a flotation device for each person on board.
Make sure the life jacket fits — Check the jacket for both weight and size limits. Life jackets should be snug and should not pop up around the ears.
Watch for waves, currents, drop-offs and underwater objects — Lakes, rivers and streams often have murky water, potentially hiding underwater hazards such as logs, currents or changes in water depth. Be prepared for the unexpected.
Avoid alcohol — Boaters and swimmers can become impaired with less alcohol than motor vehicle drivers due to heat and dehydration. Boating Under the Influence also is a criminal violation and is enforced actively in Nebraska.
Watch the weather – Storms can pop up quickly in Nebraska. Check the weather in advance and monitor it during the day, if necessary. Sudden changes in weather can lead to rocky water and potential lightning strikes, both of which put swimmers and boaters at risk.
Learn what to do in an emergency — Know the signs of downing. Consider getting water safety and CPR trained, and if an emergency occurs, remember to call 911 for help.
Depredation tools available for landowners
With growing season in full swing, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reminds landowners tools and resources are available to those experiencing crop and livestock damage due to wildlife.
Landowners can contact their nearest Game and Parks district office to discuss options to alleviate damage, such as scare devices, fences, damage-control permits or opening lands to public access for hunting. Find a local office at outdoornebraska.gov/locations.
Landowners also can contact a wildlife biologist about their wildlife damage issues at outdoornebraska.gov/depredation.
Species that commonly cause depredation issues include deer, elk and geese, among others.
Big game wildlife populations are best managed through hunting. In 2021 and early 2022, Game and Parks increased tags for deer, antelope and elk, and prioritized antlerless seasons for elk in early and late season splits. Game and Parks continues to address localized depredation issues through targeted efforts.
Game and Parks also continues to offer the Antlerless Hunter Database, which connects hunters who wish to harvest antlerless deer with landowners who are experiencing damage issues from deer on their property. Learn more at outdoornebraska.gov/antlerlesshunterdatabase.
Lewis and Clark rec area to host National Marina Days
Join the National Marina Days festivities June 18 at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area near Crofton.
Activities will include a sand castle building tournament, yoga by the lake, hayrack rides, boat tours, kayaking, a fish fry and more.
Get a map of the park and the complete schedule of events at the park office. A vehicle park entry permit is required. Get one in advance at OutdoorNebraska.org.
Yoga by the Lake: Bring a yoga mat or towel for this beach-based yoga session.
1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Sand Castle Building Contest: Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place. Divisions are age 7 and under; 8 to 12; 13 and up; and family. Some tools will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring tools needed for their creations. Winners will be posted at the Weigand Marina. Check at the park office for sand castle rules.
Fishing Clinic: Stationed at the Marina Docks, anglers will be on-site to help visitors catch fish. Bait and tackle will be provided.
Boat Tours: Learn about Nebraska’s second largest reservoir during a tour of the lake. Lifejackets will be provided.
Touch Tanks: Come take a look at critters found in and near Lewis and Clark Lake.
Introduction to Archery: Try your hand at archery. Equipment will be provided.
Kayaking: Get a kayaking tutorial, then use provided kayaks, paddles and lifejackets to float the lake.
As well as: Watch and learn at fish cleaning and Dutch oven demonstrations; learn about aquatic invasive species; get a courtesy boat safety lesson; meet and greet the Crofton Fire and Rescue Department; decorate the sidewalk with chalk; participate in kids’ outdoor games; or watch the River City Area Wood Carvers.
Yankton Search and Rescue Dive Demonstrations: Watch the team demonstrate their skills at the swim beach.
6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Fish fry: Located at the Weigand Picnic Shelter, take your meal to go. Eat at the picnic shelter, along the lake or back at your campsite. Cost is $12 for those 13 and older, $6 for those 4-12; and free for those age 3 or under.
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Hayrack Rides: Explore the park on a hayrack ride.
Catch cowboys, soldiers, and Miss V the traveling cowgirl at Fort Kearny event
Join Fort Kearny State Historical Park for an afternoon of free cowboy fun from 2 to 4 p.m. June 28 at 1020 V Road, Kearney.
The event will feature Miss V, the traveling cowbelle; Don Milton, cowboy; Bob Lamberson, storyteller; and Lyle Henderson former cowboy and owner of the Platte Valley Saddle Shop. Free “old time” root beer and sarsaparilla will be served.
Reenactors also will be at the park to discuss life as a soldier during the fort’s early days. Period fire arms, sent down from Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park, will be on display.
Miss V will give a musical performance from 3 to 3:20 p.m. She will join Milton, Lamberson, and Henderson, along his wife Linda, on the grounds through the afternoon, each sharing their unique cowboy stories.
Lyle will talk about his early days of being a cowboy in Idaho and Grand Island area and about his and his father’s connection to the Pony Express Association. He and his wife also will display their custom saddles.
Miss V will showcase her homemade instruments and share stories from her 14 years living a pioneer lifestyle on a historic claim in northwest Wyoming. Milton will share stories of growing up on a ranch in southwest Nebraska homesteaded by his grandfather, helping with the cattle and quarter horses. And Lamberson, of the Palmer area, will share stories of the cowboy livelihood.
In addition to the festivities, visitors to the park will be able to explore exhibits and the reconstructed buildings, including the stockade, parade grounds, powder magazine, and blacksmith/carpenter shop.
The event is free, but a vehicle park entry permit is required. Get one in advance at OutdoorNebraska.org.
Learn more about the park at OutdoorNebraska.org/FortKearny.