LINCOLN, Neb. – Hunters may begin donating deer to the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) program Sept. 1, the start of the archery deer season. Eight processors will be available around the state. Three additional processors will accept deer for the program starting Nov. 14.

Hunters pay no processing costs for deer accepted by processors for this donation-driven program.

The HHH program is funded solely by tax-deductible contributions. Ground venison is distributed by charitable organizations to Nebraskans in need. Hunters should first talk with processors but may keep antlers, head and cape and donate the rest of the deer. Processors accept only whole deer in good condition to ensure a good yield of pure ground venison.

The participating meat processors are: Amherst – Belschner Custom Meats; Deshler – Deshler Zero Pantry; Elwood – SteakMaster (starting Nov. 14); Humphrey – Main Street Market, Country Butcher (starting Nov. 14); Lindsay – Melcher’s Locker; North Bend – North Bend Locker; North Platte – Kelley’s Custom Pack; Omaha – B.I.G. Meats; Table Rock – Den’s Country Meats (Starting Nov. 14; Ulysses – The Butchery.

Learn more about the program and how to support it at OutdoorNebraska.org/HHH or contact program coordinator Teresa Lombard at 402 471-5430 [email protected].

Dove hunting season opens Sept. 1 in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. – Dove hunting season begins soon and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has some reminders for hunters, as well as recommendations for areas to hunt.

Dove hunting is fun and a great way to introduce someone to hunting or to kick off your own upland game hunting spending time in the field with family and friends.

With a statewide distribution and generous bag limits, dove hunting provides some excellent opportunities. Doves may be hunted statewide Sept. 1 – Oct. 30, with daily bag and possession limits of 15 and 45, respectively. Bag and possession limits are for mourning, white-winged and Eurasian collared-doves in aggregate. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.

Sunflower, millet and wheat, which generally provide good food sources and dove-hunting opportunities, have been planted at several wildlife management areas statewide. Game and Parks recommends hunters scout areas before they hunt. To view a list of these “dove fields,” see the 2020 Dove Hunting Fact Sheet at OutdoorNebraska.gov/SmallGameSpecies.

Other public lands throughout the state can provide good dove hunting opportunities, depending on local conditions. All of Nebraska’s publicly accessible lands (including state, federal, and private lands enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters Program) are displayed in the 2020-2021 Public Access Atlas, which can be found online at OutdoorNebraska.org/PublicAccessAtlas.

Nebraska residents 16 years and older and all nonresidents are required to have a valid Nebraska small game hunting permit, habitat stamp and Harvest Information Program (HIP) number. Get the free HIP number at OutdoorNebraska.gov/hip or at any Game and Parks office. Federal and state migratory bird hunting stamps (duck stamps) are not required to hunt doves. Shotgun plugs are also required, restricting it to no more than three shells.

Dove hunters who find a leg band on a dove should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at reportband.gov. In addition, randomly selected hunters will be asked to save one wing from each dove during the first week of the season and mail them postage-free to the Service.

It is unlawful to hunt on state recreation areas (SRA) until Sept. 8. Regulations prohibit any hunting on SRAs until the Tuesday following Labor Day.

Eurasian collared-doves also may be harvested between Oct. 31, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021, with bag and possession limits of 15 and 45, respectively.

For summaries of hunting regulations, read the Small Game and Waterfowl Guide at Outdoornebraska.gov/guides. Purchase permits at OutdoorNebraska.org.

Fishing with basics of hooks, bobbers and sinkers

By Jerry Kane
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

For a novice angler, selecting fishing tackle can be intimidating. An angler will find a lot to pick from at the store. Aisles of items, in fact.

Any angler can keep things basic for starters, especially with simple hooks, sinkers and bobbers.

Hooks
Hooks can be used with worms, minnows, prepared baits or plastic baits. They come in a variety of styles, sizes and colors. A good selection of hooks that will hold a variety of baits is an important component for a tackle box.

Hook size is indicated by a number, with larger numbers indicating smaller hooks. For instance, a size 2 hook is larger than a size 10 hook (think of how many times you can fit the hook gap into an inch). Very large hooks are sized differently, such as 1/0, 2/0 and 3/0. With this designation, larger numbers indicate larger hooks.

Use smaller hooks (sizes 6-10) when fishing for small species such and bluegill and crappie. Larger hooks can be used to fish for larger species such as walleye and pike.

Treble hooks have three points, and often are used with prepared baits such as dough balls or marshmallows. Hooks also come in different shapes. Many have straight shanks, but some are bent to help hold bait, or prevent fish from swallowing the hook.

Barbless hooks are designed for easy removal from fish. Any hook can be made barbless by pinching the barb down with a pliers. When around children, consider using barbless hooks for the ease of removal from people.

Sinkers
Often the weight of the hook and bait alone is not heavy enough to cast the line or hold the bait under water. Sinkers are pieces of metal that provide extra weight. It is good to have a variety of sinkers types in your tackle box.

The most common type for beginning anglers is split shot. These small, round sinkers literally are split in the middle so they can be crimped onto line with pliers. Opposite the split are wings. The pliers can pinch these to remove the split shot.

Bobbers
Bobbers, also known as floats, help keep bait suspended off the bottom and also provide an indication of when a fish takes your bait. The position of the bobber on the line can be adjusted to put your bait at a specific depth below the surface.

Use the smallest bobber you can get away with. The smaller the bobber, the easier it will be to detect nibbles at the bait. A 1-inch clip-on bobber is a good choice for a new angler.

If you are just getting into fishing and want more details, a helpful resource for all things beginner is Game and Parks’ Going Fishing Guide, available at OutdoorNEbraska.gov/howtofish. If you want to take a new angler fishing and become eligible to win prizes, register for the Take ’em Fishing Challenge at OutdoorNebraska.org, where fishing permits also are available for purchase.

Repairs begin on boat ramp area at Indian Cave State Park

LINCOLN, Neb. – Repairs begin this week on the boat ramp area at Indian Cave State Park, including silt removal, guardrail replacement and repairing the riprap along the banks of the area.

The boat ramp remains closed until this work is completed, which is estimated to be two to three weeks.

An entry permit is required of each vehicle entering Indian Cave State Park.

Rainbow trout stockings resume at Gracie Creek Pond

LINCOLN, Neb. – Catchable-size rainbow trout were stocked in Gracie Creek Pond on Aug. 19 after the recent installation of a new fish screen at the outlet culvert.

Plans to resume regular seasonal stockings at the popular fishery located on the north side of Calamus Reservoir in Loup County should be welcoming to anglers. Trout will be stocked at a reduced rate of 600 fish per stocking for the foreseeable future.

The capacity of the pond has been reduced because of extensive sand deposited from March 2019 floods. Plans are being made to excavate or dredge to restore the pond and enhance the fishery potential.

Visit OutdoorNebraska.gov for more information on fishing in Nebraska.

Calamus, Johnson Lake, Bluestem, Willow Creek, Rockford, Wagon Train on health alert

LINCOLN, Neb. – A health alert for harmful algal blooms, also known as toxic blue-green algae, has been issued for Calamus Reservoir in Loup and Garfield counties, Johnson Lake in Gosper and Dawson counties and Bluestem Lake in Lancaster County.

A health alert remains in effect at Willow Creek Reservoir in Pierce County, Rockford Lake in Gage County and Wagon Train Lake in Lancaster County.

Visitors to Calamus, Johnson Lake, Bluestem, Willow Creek, Rockford and Wagon Train state recreation areas should avoid full-body contact activities that could lead to swallowing water, such as swimming, wading, skiing, jet skiing, etc. Non-contact activities such as boating, fishing and camping are OK. Dog owners are urged to keep pets out of the water and not allow them to ingest lake water.

Samples taken by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy on Aug. 17-18 were above the health alert threshold of 8 parts per billion (ppb) of total microcystin, which is a toxin released by certain strains of blue-green algae.

This is a lower threshold than previous years, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations. Previously, the state had set a limit of 20 ppb, but adopted the new limits after concluding that the new EPA threshold is based on the best scientific evidence available, and is protective of public health.

Lakes with beaches and those that allow power boating are tested weekly through the summer, and sampling results will be updated every Friday. Health alerts are lifted immediately when algal toxin levels are below 8 ppb. To view weekly data for the lakes sampled, visit deq-iis.ne.gov/zs/bw/.

For more information on harmful algal blooms, read this Fact Sheet.

Take ’em Hunting launches second year of mentorship challenge

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, along with AKRS Equipment Solutions, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, and the National Wild Turkey Federation, is launching its second annual Take ’em Hunting challenge to hunters starting Sept. 1.

Participants are encouraged to introduce someone new to hunting during the 2020-2021 hunting seasons, and then upload a photo of their trip to the Game and Parks website. Those who do will be registered to win prizes, including a camo John Deere 590 XUV crossover utility vehicle from AKRS valued at $15,300, among others.

Last year, 2,175 mentors participated, bringing nearly 1,580 first-time hunters into the field to hunt upland, waterfowl, deer, turkey and more.

“Many of us remember someone teaching us the ropes of hunting and inspiring us to have a role in our state’s conservation,” said Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas. “With this challenge, we hope others are inspired, too, while making memories that last a lifetime.”

Hunting is critical to future conservation of our natural resources. Every time a hunter buys a hunting permit or habitat stamp, his or her purchase directly funds programs that support habitat conservation, hunting access, wildlife research and much more. Additionally, excise taxes that hunters pay on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment generate an additional $1 billion for conservation work each year.

“In order to maintain our cherished natural resources, we must recruit a new generation of hunters,” Douglas said. “The best thing a hunter can do for conservation is to introduce someone new to hunting.”

Hunting is a great way to spend time outdoors, experience nature, unwind and make memories with friends and family. The Take ’em Hunting effort offers an extra incentive for hunters to take someone along for a hunt. Special youth seasons are an especially great time to take young hunters out.

Prizes will be given away throughout the challenge Sept. 1, 2020, to May 31, 2021, with the grand prize utility vehicle winner announced in June 2021. For more information, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/TakeEmHunting.

Commissioners to consider 2021 bighorn sheep season

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider a staff recommendation to authorize one lottery and one auction permit for the 2021 bighorn sheep season when it meets Aug. 28 at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.

The meeting will start at 9 a.m. at Peter Kiewit Lodge.

The Commission also will consider recommendations to:

• increase various nonresident hunt, fish and big game permit fees. A public hearing is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Central Time for proposed amendments relating to fees for licenses and permits. The nonresident fees recommended to increase for 2021 include various small game (hunt), fish, deer, antelope and turkey permits, antelope applications and some stamps;

• amend wildlife regulations to allow the agency director, in the interest of public health, to determine that physical check stations are not prudent during the November firearm deer season, October antelope or muzzleloader season or any elk season, and allow the animal to be checked via internet or telephone;

• amend wildlife regulations regarding threatened and endangered species to add the thick-billed longspur (formerly McCown’s longspur) and the timber rattlesnake to the threatened list and remove the river otter from the threatened list;

• change sport fishing regulations to add the following areas to the list of those where no live baitfish may be used or possessed: Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area, Dundy County; Avocet Wildlife Management Area, Grant County; Wilbur Reservoir, Saline County; Big Elk, Sarpy County; and West Papillion 6, Sarpy County;

• approve the City of Chadron Deer Management Plan;

• approve permitting of hunting in some state parks and state historical parks; and

• approve budget requests for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

The commissioners also will hear an update on the planning process for the Berggren Plan for Pheasants, as well as a staff environmental report.

A complete agenda is available at OutdoorNebraska.gov/commissioners.