Outdoor notes: November firearm deer harvest lower than last year
Preliminary Nebraska deer check-in numbers indicate 2022 statewide harvest is down 9% compared to 2021 for the November firearm season. During the nine-day season, which was Nov. 12-20, 33,866 deer were harvested, compared to 37,053 in 2021.
While the overall statewide trend was down compared to previous years, regions of the state varied. Deer harvest in southeast Nebraska was up 2% from 2021, while southwest Nebraska was down 15%. The northwest district was down 9% and the northeast district was down 9% from 2021.
Mule deer buck harvest decreased 10%, with 4,875 taken, compared to 5,407 in 2021. Whitetail buck harvest was down 12%, with 18,942 taken compared to 21,070 in 2021. Antlerless mule deer harvest was down 12%, while antlerless white-tailed deer harvest increased 1% compared to 2021.
“There are a couple primary factors in the decline in deer harvest,” said Luke Meduna, big game program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Considering the increases in antlerless harvest due to depredation complaints over the past few years, it’s not surprising harvest numbers would start trending downward at some point with those deer populations declining. We also took a fair number of reports of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease the last two years, particularly in northern Nebraska and that likely had an impact on whitetail populations.”
Archery season closes Dec. 31, while muzzleloader season is Dec. 1-31. The late antlerless season will run Jan. 1-15, while the River Antlerless late season will run Jan. 1-31.
Hunters are reminded that mule deer does are protected in many management units and public lands across the state. Refer to the 2022 Big Game Guide for details or view it at OutdoorNebraska.gov/guides.
Hunters wishing to donate venison can use the Deer Exchange program. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org for more details.
Hershey Beach boat ramp at Sutherland, two ramps at Enders to reopen
Three boat ramps at Sutherland Reservoir and Enders state recreation areas will reopen to the public Nov. 29 after several improvements were completed.
At Sutherland, the erosion under the Hershey Beach boat ramp has been repaired, and rock riprap has been placed along both sides of the ramp to prevent future erosion from occurring. Other improvements include restoring rock riprap and the walking surface to the breakwater structure, as well as installing lighting in the parking area.
This project was funded through the sale of fishing permits and the Nebraska Game and Parks Aquatic Habitat Fund.
At Enders, improvements were made to the Area A and No Name Bay boat ramps. They include double-lane ramps, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking pads, breakwaters to protect the ramps, gravel parking areas, and pull-through access to the ramps. No Name Bay also has a new gravel kayak launch. New lighting likely will be installed at both ramps in 2023.
Docks are not yet in the water at the Enders ramps. A new dock will be installed at the Area A ramp later, and repairs still are being made to the No Name Bay dock. A separate announcement will be made when the docks are in service.
The Enders project was made possible through a United States Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety grant and the Aquatic Habitat Stamp.
Questions about either project can be directed to [email protected].
Explore the parks with these Game and Parks events in December
Spend some time in Nebraska’s state parks this fall and winter by attending a variety of events throughout December.
Don’t forget a vehicle park entry permit is required at Nebraska state parks. Get one at OutdoorNebraska.gov or at state park entrances.
Enjoy murder mystery at Arbor Lodge Mansion
Experience a true whodunnit with a seasonal twist during Murder at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at Arbor Lodge Mansion. Participate in the holiday-themed evening of mystery and mayhem as you work to solve clues and break the case Dec. 3, 10 and 17 from 6-9 p.m.
Participants will receive a character to portray as they arrive at the mansion. Costume props will be available, but guests are encouraged to wear their own ugly Christmas sweater.
Add to the fun with dinner at Timbers and a stay at Lied Lodge. Make your room reservation online or by calling 800-546-5433. Dining reservations are required. Reserve your table here or call 402-873-8740.
Visit the calendar event entry at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for more information.
Decorate a tree at Lewis and Clark for a chance to win a cabin stay
Put your tree decorating skills to the test for a chance to win a two-night cabin stay at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area near Crofton.
The contest is open through Dec. 26 with judging to occur Dec. 27-29; one winner will claim the prize two-night cabin stay.
Contestants, limited to household units, may decorate one tree along the park’s entrance driveway.
Contestants are encouraged to use environmentally friendly decorations, such as popcorn garland, solar powered lights, bird seed pinecones, wildlife-friendly decorations and more.
Then take a photo of the decorated tree and send it to [email protected] and tag @nebraskanortheastparks on Facebook.
All decorations that are not wildlife friendly must be removed by Jan. 8.
Ponca, Indian Cave hosting Christmas Bird Count events
Take part in an annual community science project and participate in the Christmas Bird Count in December. Events will take place Dec. 14 at Ponca State Park and Dec. 29 at Indian Cave State Park.
The Christmas Bird Count is the National Audubon Society’s 123-year-old event that takes place every year around Christmas, where bird lovers of all ages and skills count all the birds they can see in a 24-hour period.
Indian Cave’s event will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while Ponca’s will be from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided at both parks.
Visit the calendar event entries at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for more information.
Have fun with Ponca State Park Creative Snow Building Contest
Get artistic when the snow falls this winter by participating in the Ponca State Park Creative Snow Building Contest.
Through March 19, build something fun out of snow at the park, then take a photo of it. Enter it in the contest by emailing it to [email protected]. Prizes will be awarded for the top three places. First place is a free night’s stay in a Ponca State Park mini-lodge.
The snow creation could resemble a person, animal or object or any size. Photos will be displayed on the Ponca State Park NE Facebook page, and winners will be announced March 22.
Contestants must supply their own accessories, which will stay with the snow creation. Contestants should be respectful of others’ creations and possessions.
For more information, call the park at 402-755-2284.
Enjoy Christmas at the Cody’s at Buffalo Bill Ranch SHP
Come to North Platte for Christmas at the Cody’s this holiday season at Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park.
From 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 16-20, tour the mansion’s 18 rooms, filled with holiday decorations. Walk the grounds and see holiday lights and decorations. Carolers and instrumentals will perform in the Lady’s parlor nightly. Experience the historic barn, decorated festively with help from North Platte’s first responders.
There will be tractor-drawn hayrack rides Dec. 16-17 and horse-drawn hayrack rides Dec. 18-20.
Visit the calendar event entry at calendar.outdoornebraska.gov for the full schedule.
Ponca SP to host Winterfest on Dec. 31
Close out the year in style at Ponca State Park with Winterfest on Dec. 31.
Highlights of the day include the National Championship Fruitcake Fling at noon, the Yule Log Quest at 2 p.m. and lighted hayrack rides.
In the fruitcake fling, contestants throw wildlife-friendly fruitcakes for distance. Prizes are awarded in four age groups.
In the Yule Log Quest, teams of three to five members compete in a series of five challenges, followed by a series of five clues that ultimately lead them to the hidden Yule log. Prizes are awarded to the first team to find the Yule log and to the team with the most unique name.
For more information, call the park at 402-755-2284.
Five challenges for Nebraska hikers
By Renae Blum
Hikers seeking a challenge will find what they’re looking for on these five Nebraska trails.
Along several, hundreds of feet of elevation changes will test your hiking stamina, but scenic views make it worth the climb to the top. Other trails take time to complete or offer minimal protection from the elements.
Whichever trail you choose, you’ll get to enjoy the beauty of scenic Nebraska – along with the satisfaction of tackling a challenge.
Trail 10, Indian Cave State Park
Prepare for some steep climbs, as well as beautiful views, at Indian Cave State Park’s Trail 10. As you ascend from the river bottoms to the top of the river bluffs, you’ll climb a couple of hundred feet in elevation. Stick it out, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the Missouri River.
Beginning in Norfolk and spanning 321 miles west to Chadron, the Cowboy Trail is one of the largest rails-to-trails projects in the United States. The trail is developed between Norfolk and Valentine, consisting of 187 miles of crushed limestone surfacing.
The trail itself isn’t difficult, but with little wind or shade cover, hikers are exposed to the elements. Also, the distance between towns makes for gaps in shelter. Take this challenge to see a variety of Nebraska landscapes.
Black Hills Overlook, Chadron State Park
Scenic views, as well as a rocky climb, awaits hikers at Chadron State Park’s Black Hills Overlook. Face the steep elevation changes and you’ll get to see beautiful, wide-open views of the Black Hills and the Pine Ridge. Hikers also can view remnants of a 2012 fire in the pine forest.
Mexican Canyon Trail through Spring Creek Loop Trail, Fort Robinson State Park
Want to see the views from the top of the buttes at Fort Robinson State Park? Then take this 12-mile hike along Mexican Canyon Trail through Spring Creek Loop Trail. You’ll face an elevation change of 500 feet, but also get to see views of the Red Cloud buttes, as well as Carter P. Johnson Lake and most of the Soldier Creek area.
Red Cloud Loop, Fort Robinson State Park
Fantastic views are in store for hikers at Fort Robinson’s Red Cloud Loop. The 500-foot change in elevation takes hikers to the top of buttes overlooking the fort complex and the town of Crawford. This route also offers your best chance to see the wildlife of Fort Robinson, along with some of the park’s best views.
Remember to stay safe when using these trails: Dress for the weather, bring water, tell a friend where you’re going, and hike with a buddy.
For more information about these trails, or to see an interactive trail map, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/hikingtrails.
Construction project set to start at Ash Hollow State Historical Park
Ash Hollow State Historical Park will have limited access starting in mid-December to allow for park improvements focused on improving accessibility.
Both the public bathroom and the sidewalk entrance to the visitor center will be renovated to meet wheelchair accessibility requirements.
During construction, no vehicle or foot access will be permitted to the visitor center or parking area. Some activities at the park also may be interrupted during construction.
Access to the rest of the park will remain open daily from sunrise to sunset, including the primitive restrooms. A valid park entry permit is required to be on Ash Hollow State Historical Park grounds and is available at the iron ranger at the entrance of the Garden County park.
Construction is expected to be completed by early spring.
Questions may be directed to the Lincoln Game and Parks office at 402-471-0641 or to park superintendent Tamara Cooper at 308-778-5651.
Special permit required for muzzleloader muley hunters in Pine Ridge
As muzzleloader deer season gets underway, hunters are being reminded that the Pine Ridge was added to Nebraska’s list of Mule Deer Conservation Area units this year. That means hunters must carry a Pine Ridge MDCA Permit to harvest mule deer in the unit; the Statewide Muzzleloader and Restricted Statewide Buck permits are no longer valid for that species there.
It also means the Pine Ridge MDCA permit — which is valid for any deer, except antlerless mule deer — is valid for both the November firearm and December muzzleloader seasons.
This year’s Pine Ridge MDCA permits have sold out. The quota was set at 1,200; 85% of those were allocated to residents and 15% to nonresidents.
The Pine Ridge Unit encompasses all land north of the Niobrara River between the Wyoming state line and Nebraska Highway 27. Other MDCA units are the Frenchman, Platte, Buffalo and Republican.
People can read about this and other changes to deer regulations at www.outdoornebraska.gov/deerseasonchanges.