By Renae Blum, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Every spring Nebraska’s central Platte River valley hosts one the most remarkable wildlife spectacles in North America: sandhill crane migration. More than 500,000 cranes will descend there to rest and refuel before continuing their journey north.

One popular place to view these birds is Fort Kearny State Recreation Area, located southeast of Kearney. At dawn and dusk, visitors can walk the park’s hike-bike trail to a bridge over the Platte, where birds gather to roost in the river. And during the day, the cranes take to the surrounding fields to find food. The visitor center at Fort Kearny State Historical Park – adjacent to the SRA – acts as an information center for crane viewers, offering tips on where to find the birds.

Park superintendent Joe Blazek says this is perhaps the greatest advantage to viewing cranes at Fort Kearny: all the information that’s available. “We know where the cranes are,” Blazek said. “We’ll guide you and tell you where you can have the best chance of seeing the cranes. It’s better than being on your own.”

The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The admission fee is $4 for adults, $1 for children ages 3 to 12, and free admission for children ages 2 and under. Guests also can watch a 15-minute video presentation on the cranes and learn more about their migration journey.

Another advantage to viewing cranes at Fort Kearny, Blazek said, is the range of viewing experiences available. Besides watching the cranes feeding during the day, visitors can see as many as 20,000 birds roosting in the river at night from the Hike-Bike Trail bridge. The bridge is one-third mile from the parking lot, and the best viewing times are a half hour before sunrise and sunset. The trail is flat and paved, Blazek said, and it isn’t a strenuous walk.

Blazek offered a few tips for those planning to view the cranes from the bridge:

  • Dress appropriately. “This time of year, we get all kinds of weather. One day it’ll be 70 degrees and the next day it’ll be a blizzard,” Blazek said. “I would pay attention to the weather and make sure you’re ready for the elements.”
  • Bring binoculars.
  • Observe crane viewing etiquette: Keep your voice low and avoid sudden movements; wear darker colors; no flash photography.
  • Crane numbers typically reach their peak in the third week of March, though cranes can be viewed from early March to early April.
  • Crane viewers have available to them 120 campsites at Fort Kearny SRA.
  • A Nebraska state park entry permit is required at Fort Kearny SRA and SHP. Daily permits are good until noon the next day, and cost $6 for residents and $12 for nonresidents. You also can purchase an annual permit, which is $31 for residents and $61 for nonresidents.

For more information about Fort Kearny SRA, visit or call 308-865-5305.

Commissioners to consider 2023-2024 waterfowl recommendations

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider 2023-2024 waterfowl hunting season recommendations at its March 14 meeting in Kearney.

The meeting begins at 8 a.m. in the North Platte Room at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, 3060 E. 1st St.

Staff will recommend amending Commission Orders to opening duck season in Zone 3 a week later than the 2022-2023 season. The other recommended season dates are calendar date adjustments. Waterfowl recommendations are developed balancing hunter preferences with chronology of migration, hunter harvest, and hunter participation.

The 2023-2024 Nebraska waterfowl recommendations are:

Early Teal:

Low Plains – Sept. 2-17

High Plains – Sept. 2-10

Daily bag limit – six; Possession limit – 18

Youth Hunt:

Zone 1 – Oct. 7-8

Zone 2 – Sept. 30-Oct. 1

Zone 3 – Oct. 21-22

Zone 4 – Oct. 14-15

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. 14-Dec. 26

Zone 2 – Oct. 7-Dec. 19 and Jan. 10-31 (High Plains)

Zone 3 – Oct. 28-Jan. 9 and Jan. 10-31 (High Plains)

Zone 4 – Oct. 21-Jan. 2

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. 7-Jan. 19

Daily bag limit – five; Possession limit – 15

White-fronted Goose:

Statewide – Oct. 7-Dec. 17 and Jan. 25-Feb. 9

Daily bag limit – two; Possession limit – six

Light Goose Regular Season:

Statewide – Oct. 7-Jan. 3 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. 14-Dec. 14 and Jan. 13-March 14

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 proposed boating regulation changes to waters with special restrictions, regarding the addition and deletion of various waters that have special regulations regarding the type of vessels allowed to operate on those waters. Learn more by reading the Public Hearing Notice at

Also on the agenda are staff recommendations to:

  • Amend wildlife regulations to allow elk harvested to be checked via telephone or internet instead of delivered to a check station before being processed.
  • Approve the 2023-2025 Nebraska Game and Parks Strategic Plan.
  • Designate the area formerly known as the Fort Kearny Shooting Sports Complex to the Kearney Outdoor Education Complex State Recreation Area, in accordance with statutes, and to establish fees for activities at the SRA.

The commissioners also will hear a review of the 2022 big game hunting seasons and a preview of spring events in state park areas.

See the full meeting agenda at

Challenge rewarded: Upland, Duck slam grand prizes awarded

Hunters love to go afield hunting in Nebraska when a challenge is involved. A chance to win a shotgun in the experience only sweetens the deal.

Two Nebraska hunters now are owners of new shotguns as the grand prize winners of the latest seasons of the Upland and Duck slams.

Zachary Goodrich of Sidney won a Weatherby Orion 12-gauge shotgun in the Upland Slam, while Josh Schnitzler of Battle Creek won a Franchi Affinity Elite 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun in the Duck Slam.

The fifth year of the Upland Slam gave 169 hunters and the fourth year of the Duck Slam gave 162 hunters a reason to take advantage of the state’s excellent opportunities and growing availability of publicly accessible land. In both slams, hunters upload photos of their harvests to a website and share information about their hunting experience. The finishers of each of the slams became eligible for the random drawings for the shotguns.

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.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed offering this experience with Nebraska Game and Parks and reading hunters’ stories of pursuit over the last five years,” 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,” she said. “Congrats to all the finishers and their four-legged friends that helped make it happen.”

This season, 98 hunters completed the Upland Slam. They received an official certificate and pin. All participants who harvested at least one species were entered into monthly drawings for prizes. They included prize winners Mike Raynor of Dakota City, who a won $200 Scheels Gift Card, Nolan Kocian of Dwight, who won at Traeger Wood Pellet Grill, and Tristan Kocian of Dwight, who won a Youth Lifetime Permit.

There were 524 photos submitted to the Upland Slam. Participation included hunters from 10 other states, as well as three youths. Find the names of all hunters who successfully completed the Upland Slam at

The Duck Slam is a partnership with Ducks Unlimited and challenges hunters to harvest a teal (blue-winged or green-winged) of either sex, as well as drakes of three other species: an American wigeon, a mallard and a northern pintail. All ducks had to be harvested in Nebraska.

The 70 hunters who completed the 2022-2023 Duck Slam received an official certificate, a pin, Central Flyway bragging rights and were registered to win one of several great prizes donated by Ducks Unlimited. There were 457 photos submitted. Among the participants were six youths – four of whom finished – and hunters from 12 other states. Find a list of hunters who completed the Duck Slam at

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 20-23.

These four regional public informational sessions – one for each Game and Parks 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 20; Southwest District, March 21; Northeast District, March 22; Northwest District, March 23. 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