Home » Author Archives: Justin Haag, Regional Editor/PIO

Author Archives: Justin Haag, Regional Editor/PIO

Justin Haag serves the Panhandle as a NEBRASKAland’s Regional Editor and Public Information Officer for the Commission. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing and hunting. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and enjoy introducing their two children to the many outdoor recreational opportunities of the Pine Ridge region.

Pine Ridge Mule Deer Counted

Mule deer

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has completed the second year of an annual mule deer survey in portions of the Pine Ridge management unit in northwestern Nebraska. On Feb. 6-9, Commission employees used a contracted helicopter to repeat the 2014 mule deer survey. Commission staff counted 758 deer in 429 square miles of the unit compared to 862 in the same areas in 2014. The data will be compared to mule deer numbers in other areas of the state ... Read More »

More Elk Collared in North-central Nebraska

Pilot David Rivers and gunner Donnie Wackerman get ready to take flight Tuesday morning. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

BASSETT – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission placed tracking collars on three elk near Bassett in north-central Nebraska on Tuesday, the latest installment of a multi-year effort to use real-time location data to determine populations, make harvest recommendations and monitor herd health. Game and Parks contracted a helicopter wildlife capture crew to catch the elk and equip them with GPS tracking collars and ear tags. In addition, samples were taken from the three cows to obtain health and genetic ... Read More »

Big Equipment, Big Projects at Chadron State Park

A track hoe operated by Rich Halverson loads a dump truck with soil excavated from the pond at Chadron State Park. The pond will be as deep as 14 feet after its renovation. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Chadron State Park is visited by multitudes of big RVs and pull-type campers in the summer. It is getting a good share of its winter traffic this season from other types of big vehicles. They include a Caterpillar track hoe, six-wheeled dump trucks, a Timbco tree feller and a skidder. The big vehicles have been contracted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to renovate the park’s pond and thin trees. The separate projects are expected to be substantially complete ... Read More »

Nebraska Turkeys Heading to Montana

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CHADRON — In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Nebraska reintroduced wild turkeys from other states to its landscape after the big birds had been extirpated decades earlier during the nation’s westward expansion. The reintroduction was so successful that turkeys have again become common border-to-border and Nebraska is now able to return the favor to another state. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission led an effort this week to trap wild turkeys on a ranch near Whiteclay in northern Sheridan ... Read More »

Road Opens at Blue Lake

NGPC Logo

ALLIANCE — Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff members have opened the road to Blue Lake, providing access for ice anglers at the popular fishing spot 22 miles north of Oshkosh. The two-track trail has been closed since the beginning of firearm deer season in November because of poor ice and road conditions. It was opened Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 30, when Game and Parks fisheries staff surveyed the area and determined conditions to be improved. A lease agreement between the ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Christmastime at Fort Robinson

A lighted version of the park's iconic stagecoach adorns the grounds. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

It usually takes some prodding to get me into the holiday spirit. I’m much more inclined to get excited about the arrival of ice for fishing this time of year than the coming of Santa Claus and his reindeer. Thanks to one event this season, though, I moved the needle a little closer to the “St. Nicked” side of the holiday excitement meter from its position at “Scrooged.” My wife and I attended Fort Robinson State Park’s annual Christmas dinner ... Read More »

A Western Nebraska Hunt for a Westerner

Johnny Barta with ram

CRAWFORD – In order to find success, one hunter this week made the 430-mile journey from Western, Nebraska, to Western Nebraska. Yes, you read that right. Johnny Barta, a big game hunter from Western, Nebraska (the village near Fairbury, not the region), visited the butte country of western Nebraska (the region, not the village) to fill the state’s lone bighorn sheep tag. His hunt ended successfully at noon Tuesday, Dec. 9, when he bagged a trophy ram at Fort Robinson ... Read More »

Blue Lake Trail Closed

Ice fishing tip-up

CHADRON — Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials have temporarily closed access to Blue Lake in Garden County because of deteriorating ice conditions. The trail was closed during the nine days of firearm deer season and Game and Parks officials decided to extend the closure after assessing the lake’s condition Monday. With wind and warmer temperatures, the fishable ice has melted around the edge of the lake at the access point. Joe Rydell, northwestern district fisheries biologist, said the lake ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Check Station Miscellany

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This was my second year of being assigned to two days of deer check station duty at Rushville during the firearm season. The 12-hour shifts can seem long at times, but I really enjoy having conversations with the hunters and hearing from them what’s happening in the field. As was the case last year, I saw some nice mule deer and whitetails. The most prominent memories I carry away from the experience, however, have little to do with antler mass ... Read More »

A Dry Idea: The Sticky Business of Wader Repair

Cracked wader boots

In the December issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine, I have a lighthearted article on page 44 about my failed attempt to repair my beloved waders given to me as an anniversary gift by my wife years ago. As stated in the article, patching waders can be a futile effort. If you want to just make it through the season it can often be accomplished with some success, however. As a fisheries biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Joe Rydell ... Read More »