Fall sports have been cancelled, postponed or will be highly regulated. Yes, there is no Husker football this season. Bars, restaurants and gatherings are being limited or restricted. Mask wearing mandates are in effect for various businesses and in the cities of Omaha and Lincoln.
These are certainly very strange times.
One of the oldest pastimes in our American history, however, remains valid and is not damaged or impaired in any way — hunting. The hunting seasons in Nebraska for fall and winter are all set and ready to go.
If there ever was a time to learn to hunt, get back into hunting or continue to hunt — it is now.
With the lifestyle of hunting, social distancing was practiced before it ever become necessary. Mask wearing was not a problem, particularly on a cold day. Washing our hands repetitively, oh yeah that was never an issue either since there was always a creek or other water source nearby. In addition, most of us hunted locally, regionally or at least in the state, as we still do.
Hunters, more than any other group, have always understood and continue to understand the concept of self-reliance and where their food originates.
But the pursuit of game during the pandemic is often only a search for your peace of mind. It is a quest for solace amid the noise and bombardment of constant news and information. Seclusion on a hunt is the primary objective. Camaraderie and coaching a new hunter are important parts of the hunt, as well. The added bonus of a hunting trip is acquiring local, lean, free-ranging meat for consumption.
Pat Molini, Wildlife Division Assistant Administrator in charge of managing public hunting lands and wildlife depredation for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said why he is hunting this fall in Nebraska: “The reasons I am going hunting are to get in touch with myself and experience the hunts that shaped me. I look forward to rekindling the bonds of family with hunts for dove and grouse in the openness of the Nebraska Sandhills.”
Whether it is the wooded creek bottom on your friend’s farm or the grassy field of an Open Fields and Waters tract, the getting-away-from-it-all feeling not only can still be found, but is being encouraged during a period of elevated awareness regarding hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing.
Hunting can be an isolated thing where you do not need to have human-to-human contact. However, hunting can also be enjoyed safely with the individuals in your household or with others who have been self-isolating in their own “bubble.”
A hunting experience serves as a safe outdoor recreational activity that can offer a soothing respite for those of us tired of being cooped up. For me, a trip to the field during Nebraska’s archery deer hunting season is downright therapeutic, whether a white-tailed deer is shot or not.
We are lucky to live here in Nebraska where varied game animals thrive. When it comes to hunting, the Cornhusker State is called the “Mixed Bag Capitol of the Nation.”
That’s because many different game species are available to the Nebraska hunter. Among them are dove, prairie grouse, pheasant, quail, partridge, turkey, waterfowl, woodcock, snipe, rail, crow, squirrel, cottontail rabbit, jackrabbit, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Did you know in all 93 counties, hunters have harvested wild turkey and white-tailed deer?
Combo (combination) hunts are possible, too, from deer and turkey to pronghorn and grouse.
Nebraska is truly home to some of the best white-tailed deer, mule deer and pronghorn hunting around. Fall wild turkey hunters will find birds in every county of the state and the prized Merriam’s subspecies in the Pine Ridge. Dove hunters will also find their quarry across the state. Upland game bird hunters will find excellent prairie grouse hunting in the Sandhills and quality pheasant hunting in the southwest part of the state and southern panhandle. Quail hunters seeking elusive coveys of bobwhites will find the best hunting in southern Nebraska, specifically in the southeast. The wide variety of wetland habitat provides diverse waterfowl hunting opportunities statewide for duck and goose hunters.
Small game hunters will find fox squirrels and cottontail rabbits in abundance not far from home.
Some ask why is there such a high biodiversity or abundance of different game species in Nebraska.
This biodiversity is due to the vast array of ecosystems found over the state’s 77,227 square miles — Tallgrass prairie, Shortgrass prairie, Mixed-grass prairie, Sandhills, wetlands, eastern deciduous forest, Pine Ridge forests, rivers and lakes. Additionally, Nebraska has farm, range and urban habitats.
Beyond the mixed bag potential, the Husker State also offers hunters a number of other positive elements. Consider affordable permits and stamps, long seasons, liberal daily hunting hours, generous bag limits, more than 1.2 million acres of publicly accessible lands, state parks open for base camps, special $8.00 youth permits for deer and turkey, fun hunting challenges/slams to enter, hungry fish to catch, great scenery to observe and nice people to meet.
When we look back someday, COVID-19 will probably be known for the hardships, disruptions and deaths it has caused, but it may be remembered for the quality time you were able to spend in the field hunting.
Time outdoors is time well spent!
To get hunting, fishing and parks information, view our Public Access Atlas and hunting guides, purchase permits/stamps, get involved in Take ‘Em Hunting or the hunting slam challenges, see camping opportunities available in state park areas and begin planning your memorable hunt, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov