Published by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Super Tag Success

Fall 2010

Multi-species permit winner quickly bags his bull elk
It did not take long for the first winner of the Nebraska Super Tag Lottery to start filling his tag. Leo Benes of Firth already has bagged an elk and a turkey. He has the remainder of the 2010 hunting season and all next year to harvest another turkey, a deer and an antelope. Benes harvested his turkey with a bow on Sept. 17 near Firth and then shot a bull elk on Oct. 11 at Fort Robinson State Park. The Super Tag is a new offering by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. More than 1,700 applicants paid $25 each to enter the lottery, which is available only to Nebraska residents. Normally, a person may draw only one bull elk permit in a lifetime, but the Super Tag lottery offers those hunters a chance at a second one. Gov. Dave Heineman drew Benes’ entry at the July meeting of the Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners in Lincoln. The multi-species permit is valid for two years. It may not be surprising that Benes, 50, a battalion chief for the Lincoln Fire and Rescue Department, started filling his tag so quickly. When he was notified that he had won the Super Tag, he immediately drove to Game and Parks headquarters in Lincoln to claim his prize. Benes hunted frequently as a youth. That changed when he became an adult, and he only recently returned to hunting. In fact, he purchased a new rifle earlier this year. The only problem with the new rifle was that Benes still had not shot it. On their way to the Pine Ridge for the elk hunt – the day before he shot his animal – Benes and a friend, Kevin Houfek, of Firth, stopped at a shooting range


Leo Benes of Firth shot this bull elk on Oct. 11 while hunting in the Hat Creek Unit at Fort Robinson State Park. Benes was the first winner of the Nebraska Super Tag Lottery.

near Grand Island. Five shots were all he needed to sight in the rifle. The next morning, Benes spotted his elk and then stalked it along a ridge for 45 minutes. He shot the elk from 150 yards with a shot through the heart and lungs. Benes’ expectations already were surpassed. Coming home with no animal but a lot of scouting information was to be expected. Bagging a cow would have been great, but taking a bull was a bonus.

“I never thought I would get it so quickly,” said Benes, who will have the elk mounted. “I had resigned myself to bring back a cow. I had convinced myself to believe my trip would be for scouting purposes more than to make a score. “With the permit good for two years, I thought the trip would give me a chance to get familiar with the area, the habitat, and then hopefully be successful the next year,” Benes said. “But the

opportunity presented itself and I was able to take an animal this year.” A taxidermist estimated the elk’s antlers might score 330-340. Benes said he hopes to get his deer with a bow by the end of this season, bag his second turkey in the spring, then shoot an antelope next fall. The Super Tag allows Benes to hunt with any legal weapon in any open hunting unit during the general hunting season for each species.

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Outdoor Nebraska

Outdoor Briefs
Antlerless Season Nets 3,000 Deer
Hunters harvested 3,000 deer during the recent October Antlerless season, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. There were 7,230 October Antlerless permits sold, and 2,700 deer shot by those permit holders, for a hunter success rate of 37 percent. Another 300 deer were taken by Season Choice permit holders during the Oct. 2-11 October Antlerless season. The October Antlerless season was created in 2009 to allow for the additional harvest of antlerless white-tailed deer in eastern Nebraska. would be paid after the contract is signed. • Create rates for hunting access to woodland along rivers – The rate is $15 per acre for the target area and $12 for standard. • Create rate for hunting access for spring turkey season only – The rate equals a 75-percent reduction of the annual payment. • Create a rate for ice-fishing access from December through February – The rate equals a 75-percent reduction of the annual payment.

Outdoor Nebraska
is published by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Copyright 2010

Commission Offices
Headquarters 2200 N. 33rd St. P.O. Box 30370 Lincoln, NE 68503-0370 (402) 471-0641 Alliance 299 Husker Rd., Box 725 Alliance, NE 69301-0725 (308) 763-2940 Bassett 524 Panzer St., Box 508 Bassett, NE 68714-0508 (402) 684-2921 North Platte 301 E. State Farm Rd. North Platte, NE 69101-0430 (308) 535-8025 Norfolk 2201 N. 13th St. Norfolk, NE 68701-2267 (402) 370-3374 Kearney 1617 First Ave. Kearney, NE 68847-6057 (308) 865-5310 Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium 21502 W. Neb. Hwy. 31 Gretna, NE 68028 (402) 332-3901 Omaha 1212 Bob Gibson Blvd. Omaha, NE 68108-2020 (402) 595-2144

New Trail Features at
Trail users have a new tool on the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Web site. A new page dedicated to trails includes information about hiking, biking, equestrian, water, and motorized trails. Visit the page at trails.asp. The page includes an interactive map detailing trails and their amenities, as well as photographs. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (SP), Platte River SP and Branched Oak State Recreation Area (SRA) have been mapped so far, but all state parklands eventually will be included.

Hedgefield Rehabilitation Completed
Hedgefield Reservoir in Lancaster County is refilling following completion of a lake restoration project, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Major components of the rehabilitation include lake deepening, construction of an ADA-accessible breakwater jetty, a sediment trap on the south end, and a concrete boat ramp with expanded parking on the west side. Rough fish were removed from the lake and replaced with largemouth bass and bluegill. Anglers will find some fish to catch next fall, but it will be approximately two years before the fish will be large enough to harvest.

Muzzleloader Deer Season Opens Dec. 1
The statewide muzzleloader deer season is Dec. 1-31. Hunters will hope for better conditions than a year ago, when snow covered the state much of the month. Harvest during the 2009 muzzleloader season decreased 15 percent from the previous year. The permit fee is $30 for residents and $209 for nonresidents, and permits are unlimited in number. The bag limit is one deer of either sex, except no mule deer may be taken in the Mule Deer Conservation Area (MDCA), and one antlerless white-tailed deer. The MDCA is comprised of the Buffalo, Frenchman, Republican, and Platte units.

Record Number of Bull Elk Harvested
Not all elk hunting seasons have closed, but already a record 76 bulls have been harvested, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Thirty-nine antlerless elk also have been taken. In a year in which elk populations continue to expand in Nebraska, a record 2,290 applicants received a record 272 permits. The 2009 elk harvest included 66 bulls and 72 antlerless elk. The 2010 bull elk and the first half of the antlerless elk seasons closed Oct. 24. Antlerless season reopens Dec. 1-21. The Boyd Unit elk season continues through Dec. 31, except for the closure for the November firearm deer season.

Chairman: Jerrod Burke, Curtis Vice Chairman: Mick Jensen, Blair 2nd Vice Chairman: Ron Stave, Waterloo Dr. Mark Pinkerton, Wilber Dr. Kent Forney, Lincoln Lynn Berggren, Broken Bow Rex Fisher, Omaha Mark Spurgin, Paxton Norris Marshall, Kearney Director: Rex Amack

Pheasant Hunters Should Report Leg Bands
Hunters should report any leg bands they find on the pheasants they shoot this fall in the Southwest Focus on Pheasants area, according to Jeff Lusk, upland game program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Game and Parks is capturing wild birds in the focus area and putting leg bands on them. The purpose is to help understand how pheasants move and use the study area, portions of Hitchcock, Hayes and Red Willow counties, as well as hunter harvest in the area. Hunters should provide the number of the band, and the location and date it was recovered. Hunters may keep the band after reporting it. Bands may be reported by calling (402) 471-1756.

Changes Made to Open Fields and Waters
The Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners, in its August meeting, approved changes to the Open Fields and Waters Program. The program is designed to expand hunter and angler access to private lands. The following changes were made: • Create a signing bonus for contracts of five years or longer – This applies to hunting and fishing access. The bonus will equal 25 percent of the annual payment amount, and it

Public Information Manager, Information and Education: Scott Bonertz Editing and Design: Jerry Kane Outdoor Nebraska Vol. 19, No. 2

EPA denies petition calling lead ban in fishing gear
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied a petition calling for a ban on the manufacture, use and processing of lead in fishing gear. On Aug. 3, 2010, the American Bird Conservancy and many other groups petitioned the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act to “prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of lead for shot, bullets, and fishing sinkers.” On Aug. 27, the EPA denied the portion of the petition relating to lead in ammunition because the agency does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under TSCA. In a letter to the petitioners, the EPA indicated the petitioners had not shown that the requested rule is necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The letter also indicates that the increasing number of limitations on the use of lead fishing gear on some federal and state lands, as well as various education and outreach activities, call into question whether a national ban on lead in fishing gear would be the least burdensome, adequately protective approach to address the concern, as called for under TSCA. Nontoxic alternatives to lead are available and commonplace.

Fall 2010

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Antlerless Deer Hunter Program designed to increase access to private property
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is using a new online tool designed to increase hunter access to land where landowners seek more antlerless deer hunters. The Antlerless Deer Hunter Program allows hunters to register online and landowners to scan the database for hunters in their area, then contact them by telephone or e-mail. This program is available at Click on Hunting, Programs and then Antlerless Deer Hunter Program to access it, or go directly to programs.asp. “We hear from many hunters who have difficulty finding land to hunt,” said Kit Hams, big game program manager with Game and Parks. “We also hear from landowners who say hunters only want to shoot bucks or they do not feel comfortable telling hunters to shoot does. This program has the potential to address both problems with a mutually beneficial solution.” Hunters provide the following when they register: name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, counties and months in which they are willing to hunt, preferred weapons, and the number of deer they want to harvest. Landowners search the database by county and can see the hunter’s first name, contact information and hunting preferences (county, month and weapon). “With 136 days of deer seasons and 250,000 permits and bonus tags that allow antlerless deer harvest, we have more than enough days and permits to control deer herds,” Hams said. “This is one more tool to help.”

Mentors help youth succeed in pheasant season
Young Nebraska hunters took advantage of the youth pheasant season, Oct. 23-24, many with the aid of mentors. While activity was slow in some regions, plenty of youth got to experience the season through mentored hunts conducted by groups such as Nebraska Game and Parks Commission conservation officers and Pheasants Forever chapters. The youth pheasant, quail and partridge season allows young hunters to have the fields to themselves for two days. The regular pheasant season traditionally opens a week later. Here is a wrap-up of the youth season: Panhandle – Little activity was reported, but what hunters there were took part in mentored hunts. Northeast – Officers checked hunters at Willow Creek, Wood Duck, Wilkinson, and Oak Valley wildlife management areas. Hunters bagged a few birds and reported seeing few birds. District III conservation officers were busy with mentored hunts.   Southwest – One officer checked 11 hunters but only one pheasant, and five other hunters managed to get shots. Another officer found no hunters in the field but plenty of pheasants in Hitchcock, Hayes and Dundy counties. Another officer, who observed many birds in Logan and southwest Lincoln counties, only checked two hunters. Yet another officer checked three hunters and one bird in the North Platte area. Another officer, who saw many pheasants in Furnas County, checked 11 hunters and 10 birds. Southeast – Several mentored hunts took place in the region. One officer observed more anglers than hunters on Lancaster County WMAs. Jack Sinn WMA had several youth hunters. South-central – Many hunters, who mostly were concentrated on or near public land, were checked on the opening morning.


Young Nebraska hunters enjoyed the youth pheasant season, Oct. 23-24.

Campaign urges dads to take children hunting
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and National Shooting Sports Foundation have launched a statewide marketing campaign to encourage fathers to take their children hunting. With deer and turkey permits only $5 for youth, and deer and turkey populations plentiful, and hunting opportunities abundant, fall is the perfect time to introduce a son or daughter to hunting. Game and Parks has developed new Web pages at OutdoorNebraska. org/youth that detail information about youth hunting in Nebraska. The site also allows adult mentors to register for a free Nebraska upland bird hunt. “Too often our busy lifestyles discourage youngsters from participating in time-honored traditions such as hunting,” said Jeff Rawlinson, assistant division administrator in the Information and Education Division.

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Outdoor Nebraska

When in Tree, Safety Always First
Follow these steps to tree stand safety
Tree stands are a basic tool of many deer hunters, but they can be dangerous if not used correctly. Nebraska Hunter Education Coordinator Mike Streeter of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says most tree stand accidents are caused by carelessness and can be avoided by following these steps: • Always wear a full-body harness from the time you are on the ground before climbing into the stand, until you are back on the ground after climbing down. • Always attach yourself to the tree starting when you are on the ground. Remain attached until you are back on the ground. • You only should use equipment that is in good condition. Follow the instructions provided with your tree stand. Check your equipment regularly. • Avoid hunting from heights above 15 feet. • Maintain a short tether between yourself and the tree. Allow only enough slack for you to turn and shoot. The tether should be tight when seated in your stand. • Always use a haul line to raise and lower your equipment. Wait until you are in the stand and safely secured before loading a firearm or drawing an arrow from the quiver. • Never use a homemade tree stand. A stand made of wood and nailed or screwed to a tree is dangerous.

These signs informing hunters on the proper use of fall arrest system/full body harness will be posted at wildlife managemt areas and state recreation areas that allow hunting.

Use approved fall arrest system/full body harness
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has begun a campaign to encourage those who hunt using a tree stand to use a fall arrest system/full body harness approved by the Tree Stand Manufacturer’s Association. Over the past several years in Nebraska, serious injury and death has resulted from hunters falling from tree stands or slipping while climbing to or from tree stands. Proper use of a fall arrest system/full body harness (FAS/FBH), in which the hunter is tethered to the tree at all times, can prevent serious injury or death. Tree stand safety is taught in Nebraska hunter education classes. As part of the new campaign, Game and Parks has trained hunter education instructors in the proper use of FAS/FBH. Signs informing hunters on the proper use of FAS/FBH will be posted at wildlife management areas, as well as state parks and state recreation areas that allow hunting. Visit for more information.

Stay alert behind wheel to avoid deer-vehicle collisions
Drivers are reminded to be more alert on the roadways this fall as deer become more active. Deer pose a potentially dangerous threat to themselves and the occupants of vehicles traveling Nebraska highways and country roads, especially during the fall months. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has some tips to help drivers avoid deer-vehicle accidents: • When driving near shelterbelts, woodlots, creeks, or where crops are still standing, especially during evening or early morning, slow down and watch for deer. • When you spot a deer, assume there will be others in the same area, either ahead of or behind the one you have seen. • Be prepared to stop suddenly. • Many places where deer travel are posted with deer crossing signs. The absence of a sign does not mean a deer will not appear. • Deer often seem to be disoriented or confused by headlights. Some react by freezing in the light, some dart into the path of the vehicle, others bolt away in the opposite direction. Sometimes deer that have just crossed the road suddenly change direction and run back into the path of a vehicle. • Honk your horn and flash your headlights to frighten deer away from the side of the road. If there is other traffic on the road, activate your emergency flashers and tap your brakes to alert other drivers. • Anticipate the possibility of a deer unexpectedly crossing in front of you and plan ahead to avoid swerving or braking the vehicle too sharply. If a deer is struck and the driver wants to salvage it, the driver may take possession of the deer but must contact a Game and Parks conservation officer within 24 hours to obtain a salvage tag.

Fall 2010

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Regulation changes hunters should know
One restricts hunter buffer zone while other closes loophole in hunter education
Nebraskans should be aware of important regulation changes when hunting this fall. The following changes deal with the buffer zone between hunters and dwellings, as well as the closing of a loophole in hunter education requirements. BufferZone–Sportsmen who hunt near dwellings should be aware of a more restrictive regulation change that has gone into effect for this fall. Hunting with a rifle now is illegal within 200 yards – as are hunting with any equipment and trapping within 100 yards – of any inhabited dwelling or livestock feedlot. The exception, however, is that any property owner, tenant or operator or his or her guests are not restricted by the 100- and 200yard restrictions. Violation of this regulation is a class III misdemeanor and carries a minimum penalty of a $100 fine and a maximum of three months in jail, up to $500 fine or both. HunterEducation–A change to hunter education requirements in Nebraska went into effect in July. The change closes a loophole that had allowed two inexperienced hunters ages 12 through 29 to each obtain a Hunter Education Exemption Certificate and accompany each other without having an experienced hunter present. It now is required that the experienced hunter age 19 or older who is accompanying a child under age 12 or a person ages 12 through age 29 using an apprentice hunter education exemption certificate, must be certified in hunter education or bow hunter education. Violation of the hunter and bow hunter education laws is a Class III misdemeanor, which carries a $50 minimum fine and a maximum penalty of three months in jail or $500 fine or both.

Smart idea: Game and Parks conservation officers wireless
Mobile devices greatly improve communications, increase efficiency
Law enforcement at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has gone wireless for telephone and data communications. Use of mobile devices by conservation officers in the field is intended to reduce costs and increase communication with the public and other agency staff. “It’s a great step forward in maximizing the efficiency, effectiveness and field time for our officers,” said Ted Blume, administrator of the agency’s Law Enforcement Division. “Along with the new statewide Public Safety Radio Communications System that is currently being implemented, Nebraska conservation officers will have wireless mobile voice and data communications capabilities for the first time.” Office land lines are still used by administration and supervisors. The use of Smart Phones enhances field conservation officers’ ability to access information, communicate and respond to complaints and calls for service from the public and other law enforcement agencies. The transition to Smart Phones as the officers’ primary form of communication with the public began last fall, and all officers in the field now are equipped with them. The Smart Phones also can be connected to laptops so an officer may access permit data and arrest information from the field. Previously, telephone calls to officers were either routed from offices or received directly from the public at an officer residence. Now calls and e-mails can be received directly by the officers in the field. The division already has seen an improvement in officers’ response times to inquiries, calls for service and changes to assignments. The cellular numbers for officers are listed in the 2010 Big Game Guide, at, and will be in all future agency guides. Officer home phone numbers also will continue to be available for the near future during the final transition to the Smart Phones.

Year-round hunting of invasive Eurasian collared-dove legal
As of Nov. 1, 2010, it is legal to hunt the Eurasian collared-dove year-round in Nebraska. The regulation change was approved by the Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners in August. The only dove species legal to hunt in Nebraska are mourning, white-winged and Eurasian collared. The season is Sept. 1-Oct. 30 for those species. However, Eurasian collared-doves also may be hunted Oct. 31-Aug. 31. The Eurasian collareddove is an invasive, exotic species that has been colonizing North America since it was released in the Caribbean in the 1980s. “Some evidence suggests that this species, while not directly competing with native doves, interacts with them in an aggressive manner and could exclude them from preferred foraging sites,” said Jeff Lusk, Game and Parks upland game program manager. “Given the rapidity with which the Eurasian collared-dove has spread across North America, there doesn’t appear to be a natural check to its population growth,” Lusk said. “In order to try to


The Eurasian collareddove can be identified by a black half-collar around the back of the neck. Effective Nov. 1, 2010, the bird may be hunted year-round in Nebraska.

control the population and to provide more harvest opportunities, we decided to open the season year-round.” The daily bag limit is 15 birds, and the possession limit is 30. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. Hunting is open statewide, except for federal or state refuges, unless otherwise posted. The Eurasian collareddove is a large dove, with a sandy gray body and head. It has a black half-collar on the back of its neck, and it has a medium-long square tail. Read the 2010 Guide to Hunting and Public Lands for information on where to hunt doves.

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Outdoor Nebraska

A River Ran Through It
Summer flooding of Elkhorn River washed out bridges, sections of Cowboy Trail
Repairing the Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail, damaged by a June flood, would come in three phases. A 72-mile stretch of the trail is closed because of the damage from west of Norfolk to O’Neill. Heavy rain in northeast and north-central Nebraska caused the Elkhorn River and its tributaries to flood. The closed section of trail lies in the Elkhorn Valley, where it crosses the river several times. Plans for repairing the damaged section of the trail are uncertain and no timetable has been set. The 123-mile stretch of trail from O’Neill to Valentine remains open. The repair and replacement of the trail has been broken down into three segments, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission: • Replace washed out bridge – An iron bridge over the Elkhorn 3 miles west of Norfolk was washed out by the flood and must be removed from the water. The bridge must be replaced and a 100-foot-long section of washed out trail must be repaired. • Washed out sections from Norfolk to O’Neill – Large washouts at various areas must be filled and resurfaced. This includes a bridge at Ewing, where debris piles destroyed support piers. • Repair the 1-mile section of trail east of Clearwater – The flooding river reclaimed 1,070 feet of the trail, washed away a 125-foot bridge and washed out other portions along this length of trail. Funding to repair the bridge could come from many sources. The Federal Emergency


This bridge over the Cowboy Trail west of Norfolk was washed out by the flooding Elkhorn River.

Management Agency could pick up 75 percent of the cost. Game and Parks has applied for $270,000 in funding from the Recreational Trails Program and may apply for Transportation Enhancement funding in 2011. Some money from the Cowboy Trail Cash Fund, which is derived from hay leases, easements for crossing permits, and donations from outside nonprofits organizations, may be used. The Cowboy Trail is the country’s longest rail-to-trail conversion and Nebraska’s first state recreational trail. The old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad right-of-way was accepted as a donation from the Rails to Trails Conservancy in 1994. A trip west on the trail traces the route the railroad took from northeast Nebraska to South Dakota’s Black Hills. The final section of the 195mile trail from Norfolk to Valentine was completed in 2009. In 2009, nearly 18,000 users enjoyed the trail from mid-June through September.



Looking to the East in the aerial photograph above , the new course of the Elkhorn River is seen taking a bite out of a 1,000-foot section of the Cowboy Trail about 4 miles east of Clearwater in Antelope County. The June flood swept away the bank and took the limestone trail with it.

The photo to the left shows a section of the Cowboy Trail near Clearwater that will need to be resurfaced.

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