LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is looking to add more hunting and fishing access opportunities through its Open Fields and Waters Program.

Landowners are encouraged to consider allowing public, walk-in access on their property for hunting or fishing through the program. In exchange, landowners receive per-acre annual payments and liability protection through the Nebraska Recreational Liability Act.

Game and Parks is seeking to add enrollments within the following target areas:

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – CRP acres in any part of the state will be considered, but the primary interest is within the eight Pheasant Opportunity Areas/Focus on Pheasants areas identified in the Berggren Plan for Pheasants (OutdoorNebraska.org/PheasantPlan). Landowners can get up to $10 per acre for CRP, depending upon location and habitat quality.

Prairie-chicken and grouse opportunity – Sites are sought in the southern Panhandle and along a line from North Platte to Niobrara. High-quality grassland habitats with mixed-bag upland game hunting opportunities are desired. Antelope and/or mule deer opportunity is a plus.

Wetland Reserve Program Easements – Landowners who have Wetland Reserve Program Easements can receive up to $15 per acre for accessible portions of WRP easements with suitable habitats.

Northern bobwhite opportunity – Game and Parks seeks to target opportunities for quail hunting across the southern tier of Nebraska counties. All types of habitat that bobwhites use will be considered.

Fishing access – Farm ponds, small lakes, warm-water streams or rivers and cool-water streams with trout are all potential targets. Payment rates are per surface acre on lakes and ponds and per stream mile on streams or rivers.

Game and Parks received a $3 million Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Improvement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will provide $1 million per year over the next three years for expansion of Open Fields and Waters.

Open Fields and Waters has added more than 112,000 acres since 2016. In 2019-2020, more than 750 landowners participated in the program statewide, providing public access on more than 346,000 land acres, 42 ponds and lakes, and more than 44 stream miles.

Game and Parks also will consider other hunting opportunities, as well. For information about enrolling in Open Fields and Waters, contact the nearest Game and Parks office. View a list of offices at OutdoorNebraska.gov/locations.

In addition to the grant, Game and Parks uses funds from habitat stamp and hunting license sales, Pittman-Robertson funds (Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Act) and contributions from partners to fund the program and provide opportunities for hunting, trapping and fishing.

Commission to consider deer, antelope and elk hunting recommendations

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider recommendations for 2020 deer, antelope and elk hunting seasons when it meets May 8 in Lincoln.

The meeting will start at 9 a.m. at Game and Parks headquarters, 2200 N. 33rd St.

A public hearing is scheduled at 9:15 a.m. Central Time for proposed amendments to Commission orders pertaining to season dates, bag limits, permit quantities and areas open for deer, antelope and elk hunting. While all interested persons may attend and testify orally at the public hearing, they are strongly encouraged to submit written testimony to Luke Meduna, the big game program manager ([email protected]), prior to the public hearing in order to protect public health and assist in compliance with restrictions on public gatherings.

The following is a summary of the big game recommendations:

Deer – Many units have seen bag limit and permit quota changes to accomplish management goals and a few units will see a bonus antlerless white-tailed deer added to their regular and season choice permits.

Elk – Bull permits are proposed to increase 25% and antlerless permits are proposed to increase 40%. The antlerless season is proposed to be extended and run from Aug. 1 – Jan. 31, 2021, with three units being split between early and late antlerless seasons.

Antelope – Most units are proposed to see an increase in permit quotas in response to population levels and social tolerances. Similar to the Landowner October Firearm bag limit change in 2019, the Landowner Late Doe/Fawn permits also will include a bonus doe/fawn tag to help landowners harvest more doe/fawn antelope on their land if they desire.

To view all of the big game recommendations, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/regulations.

In other business, staff will recommend the commissioners approve waterfowl hunting boundary changes. Approved changes then would go on to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval, and eventually could go into effect in the fall of 2021.

In addition, staff will present an update on mountain lion research, including a new population estimate, as well as a review of the 2020 mountain lion hunting season.

May outdoor calendar

LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission important dates in May.

May 8 – Nebraska Game and Parks Commission meeting, Lincoln

May 16 – Free Fishing and Park Entry Day, statewide

May 18-June 5 – Eligible landowners may apply for one elk permit

May 31 – Spring turkey seasons close

In a proactive effort to prevent the potential for spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Game and Parks has cancelled all agency-sponsored events scheduled through May 31. Game and Parks aims to protect its staff and customers by removing opportunities for crowds to gather at facilities and events and by maintaining clean facilities.

Keep up to date on all cancellations, postponements and closures for Game and Parks at OutdoorNebraska.org/healthinfo. Visit Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov for updates on Game and Parks’ events.