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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.

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 »

Game and Parks Projects Get Boost by AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Team at Metcalf WMA

A special group of workers completed four and a half weeks of sprucing up Nebraska Game and Parks Commission properties in northwestern Nebraska this week. The seven workers of the team were enrolled in AmeriCorps, the federal National Civilian Community Corps program that provides intensive service learning opportunities for adventurous workers ages 18-24. The group joined Commission staff in completing a variety of projects to improve Walgren Lake State Recreation Area, Chadron State Park, Metcalf Wildlife Management Area and Chadron ... Read More »

Panhandle Passages: Moving the Spotlight

With the sun just below the horizon, this scene at Whitney Lake is brightened by a dead tree and stars. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

One day this week I set out early looking to capture photos of migrating sandhill cranes which commonly stay over in our area on their journey southward this time of year. Even though I had heard promising reports from the previous night I didn’t find where the cranes had roosted. I did, however, capture the above image which I believe is worth keeping. One of the challenges in landscape photography is recognizing the portion of a scene that makes it ... Read More »

Fort Robinson Christmas Dinner Celebrating 20 Years

The lodge at Fort Robinson State Park shines brightly during the holidays. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

The 20th annual Historical Christmas Dinner at Fort Robinson State Park is set for Saturday, Dec. 6. To mark the special anniversary, the dinner’s theme will step back 100 years with attire and the menu from the 1914 Christmas dinner at the Fort. Only 200 tickets will be sold for the dinner, and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3. Tickets will be available by cash or check at the Fort Robinson ... Read More »

Smoky Gray Photos

Scott Justice of Chadron harvested this turkey of the erythristic, or red, color phase. (Submitted photo)

“Smoky gray” isn’t often a quality we photographers seek in images, but it’s a different story when it comes to turkeys. I was pleased to receive a few photos of smoky gray phase wild turkeys after requesting them in a post last week. While most of the responses I received were from northwestern Nebraska, it appears some really unique birds, ranging from all white plumage to a colorful mix, are seen on occasion throughout the state. The most eye-catching of ... Read More »

Dutch Oven Program Set at Wildcat Hills SRA

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Those looking to take a traditional approach to cooking a delicious meal in the outdoors are encouraged to sign up for an upcoming program at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area of Gering. Amanda Filipi, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission outdoor education specialist, will present the “Lovin’ Dutch Oven” program Saturday, Nov. 1, at 9 a.m. at the Nature Center. The deadline to register is Friday, Oct. 24. Filipi will demonstrate the age-old process of using Dutch ovens, cast iron pots ... Read More »