Outdoor notes: Hunters successful in Nebraska bighorn harvest
Nebraska’s bighorn sheep hunting season ended Dec. 6 when a hunter from the eastern end of the state punched his tag, one of the two permits issued for the season.
Todd Nordeen, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission big game and disease research manager who supervises the hunting program, said each of the two rams harvested this year was a mature adult with full-curl horns. Both were harvested in the Wildcat Hills of the Panhandle.
Jerry Fischer of Denton bagged his ram on a 6-mile trek Dec. 6, his second day of hunting. He won his permit from a drawing 3,904 applicants.
The other hunter, Kevin Small, harvested his ram on his fourth day of pursuit, Dec. 2. He won his permit by auction in February during the annual banquet for the Iowa Chapter of the Foundation of North American Wild Sheep.
The sheep mark the 31st and 32nd harvested in Nebraska since the Game and Parks’ hunting program began in 1998.
The number of Nebraska bighorn sheep permits available each year is based on the state’s population of the species, especially mature rams, as determined during monitoring by Game and Parks staff. To date, permits have been limited to one or two hunters in most years, with several years not permitting any harvests.
Nebraska has developed a reputation for producing trophy-caliber rams for those fortunate to win a permit. Not only do the hunts provide a rare experience and uncommon table fare, they have been vital to bighorn sheep conservation in Nebraska. About $2 million has been raised through the lottery applications and auctions to fund research and reintroduction efforts of the species.
Permit winners are assisted by Game and Parks staff and treated to meals and lodging at Fort Robinson State Park.
Nebraska’s reintroduction efforts for bighorn sheep began in the 1980s, an attempt to remedy the unregulated hunting, habitat loss and disease that led to their extirpation from the state in the late 1800s. Nebraska’s population of bighorns stands at approximately more than 300 rams, ewes and lambs in both the Wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge.
More information about the hunting program and how to apply for the permit lottery may be found at Outdoornebraska.org/bighornsheeplottery.
Big game meetings scheduled across Nebraska
Hunters and landowners are encouraged to offer their feedback on big game issues during the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s public information meetings this winter.
Three-hour meetings are scheduled in each Game and Parks district. All in-person meetings, which will have a different format than years past, begin at 5 p.m. local time. The first hour will be an open house with time to talk with wildlife biologists, conservation officers and staff. Biologists will make a presentation at 6 p.m. and discuss big game harvest results and season structure. Then they will take questions on topics such as big game management, depredation, permits, antlerless harvest, trophy management and diseases.
The schedule is:
Dec. 21 – Norfolk, Northeast Community College Lifelong Learning Center, 801 E. Benjamin Ave.
Dec. 21 – Oshkosh, Oshkosh Auditorium, 602 W. 2nd St.
Dec. 22 – Gordon, Gordon City Auditorium, 311 N. Oak St.
Dec. 27 – Falls City, Falls City Senior Citizens Center, 221 W. 16th St.
Dec. 28 – Gretna, Schramm Education Center Classroom, 21502 W. Hwy. 31 (Attendees do not need a state park sticker to park in the parking lot; they should enter through the Education Center.)
Jan. 4 – Bassett, City Hall Conference Center, 106 E. Legnard St.
Jan. 4 – Grand Island, Central Community College Room 210, 3134 W. Hwy. 34
Jan. 5 – North Platte, Mid-Plains Community College, North Campus Rooms 202-204, 1101 Halligan Drive
Anyone who cannot attend a meeting can register for one of two virtual big game information sessions at OutdoorNebraska.org/FishGameMeetings. The virtual sessions are at 7 p.m. Central time Dec. 15 and Jan. 3.
2023 Nebraska Fish Art Contest open for entries
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade can flex their artistic skills and outdoor stewardship by participating in the fourth annual Nebraska Fish Art Contest.
This international art and writing competition – celebrating its 25th year in 2023 – gives youth the opportunity to highlight their talents while learning about fish, fishing and aquatic conservation. Participants can win prizes and recognition in Nebraska and internationally.
The free contest, sponsored by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Wildlife Forever and Bass Pro Shops, is accepting entries through Feb. 28, 2023. Learn more, become inspired by the Fish Art Contest Digital Classroom or enter at statefishart.org.
Artists create an original, hand-done illustration of any fish species and youth in grades 4 or higher submit a one-page creative writing detailing their knowledge of the species. 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, to utilize the competition as a learning tool in the classroom. Judging will be in March and winners announced in April.
The Fish Art Contest has seen more than 55,000 entries in its 25 years. The contest uses art, science and creative writing to foster connections to the outdoors and inspire the next generation of stewards.
“The Nebraska Fish Art Contest was especially popular last year, with students submitting very creative and beautiful works of art,” said Larry Pape, Game and Parks aquatic education specialist. “We look forward to seeing this year’s student artist submissions.”
For more information, contact Pape at [email protected].