Outdoor notes: Upland Game Outlook; Mountain lion applications; Rockford Lake on health alert; Lake Wanahoo monarch habitat tour

LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska upland hunters have more great opportunities – and one new challenge – awaiting them this fall.

Pheasant harvest opportunities this fall should be as good, or better, than typical over the last five years in the Panhandle, Southwest and Sandhills regions, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s 2018 Upland Game Hunting Outlook.

Abundances of pheasants were higher than the five-year averages in the Panhandle, Southwest and Sandhills regions, according to the July Rural Mail Carrier Survey. Pheasant hunters should find the best opportunities in the Southwest, where there is more public access, and the Panhandle.

The Outlook is based on spring and summer upland game surveys and conditions reported by biologists. Regional weather events that could impact populations are considered.

Northern bobwhite harvest opportunities will be good in the Republican, Southeast and East Central bobwhite regions, where abundances was above their five-year averages.

Spring weather was unseasonably cold, possibly leading to a delay in the onset of nesting of pheasants and bobwhite. A late April snowstorm also affected parts of the state, but there were no reports of mass mortality of pheasants, and the snow was short lived on the ground. Snowfall in primary bobwhite range was lower than normal.

“All-in-all, winter weather conditions were mild and should not have adversely impacted production, resulting in good harvest opportunities this fall,” said Jeff Lusk, upland game program manager for the Commission.

Prairie grouse hunting should be good to fair in the Sandhills, where rainfall during the spring and summer reversed the effects of last year’s drought, and abundant vegetation and insects were available to nesting and brooding hens.

The Commission reminds hunters that surveys provide a broad assessment of upland game species abundance, and cannot be used to determine game abundance at any particular hunting area. Pre-hunt scouting is recommended. The full forecast is available online at OutdoorNebraska.gov/Upland.

The hunting season for pheasant, quail and partridge is Oct. 27, 2018 – Jan. 31, 2019. The grouse season is Sept. 1, 2018 – Jan. 31, 2019. Hunting permits may be purchased at OutdoorNebraska.org.

A new challenge awaits hunters this year. The Nebraska Upland Slam invites hunters to try to take a pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie chicken and northern bobwhite in the state. Those who complete the Nebraska Upland Slam will receive a certificate and a pin. For more information, visit OutdoorNebraska.org/UplandSlam.

Public land and lands open to public hunting through the Open Fields and Waters program can be found in the Public Access Atlas, available at Maps.OutdoorNebraska.gov/PublicAccessAtlas. Additional properties open to public hunting, including tall wheat and milo stubble fields will be added to the online version of the Atlas in mid-October.

Nonresidents can get a start on preparing for their Nebraska hunts using Trip Planners, located at outdoornebraska.gov/upland.

Mountain lion lottery application period is Sept. 4-28

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will accept lottery applications for mountain lion permits Sept. 4-28 for the 2019 hunting season.

Hunting will be allowed only in the Pine Ridge Unit of northwestern Nebraska, which has an established population that can sustain a harvest. Hunters may apply for a permit in either of two subunits: the South Subunit (south of U.S. Hwy. 20) or the North Subunit (north of U.S. Hwy. 20). A person may not submit more than one application per calendar year for a mountain lion permit.

 A drawing will allocate 320 permits to each subunit, and only Nebraska residents can receive permits.

Public land will be open to hunting in the South Subunit, but public land will be closed to hunting in the North Subunit. Landowners in the North Subunit are encouraged to apply in that area, and applicants who have not arranged opportunities to hunt on private land in the North Subunit are encouraged to apply in the South Subunit.

Applications will be accepted beginning at 1 p.m. Central Time on Sept. 4. Mail applications must be received in Game and Parks’ Lincoln headquarters by 5 p.m. and online applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 28. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org to apply online or download an application at outdoornebraska.gov/mountainlionhunting. A $15 nonrefundable application fee must be submitted with each application.

Up to eight mountain lions may be harvested in 2019, with up to four of those being females. In each of the two subunits, once four mountain lions, or two females, have been harvested in that subunit, the season in that subunit will close.

Dogs may not be used during the mountain lion season, which will run Jan. 1 through Feb. 28, 2019. If the limits and/or sub-limits have not been reached in a subunit by Feb. 28, an auxiliary season, allowing the use of dogs, will occur.

A harvest will allow the mountain lion population to remain resilient and healthy, while halting growth or moderately reducing the population size. This will reduce the population density in the Pine Ridge to one similar to that of other states that allow mountain lion hunting.

To read more mountain lion hunting regulations, go to outdoornebraska.gov/mountainlionhunting.

Rockford Lake remains on heath alert

LINCOLN, Neb. – Rockford Lake in Gage County remains on health alert. During water testing last week, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality detected elevated toxin levels produced by blue-green algal blooms in the lake.

Visitors to Rockford Lake State Recreation Area (SRA) should avoid full body contact activities 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.

Lakes with beaches and those that allow power boating are tested weekly through the summer months. Health alerts are lifted when algal toxin levels are below advisory concentration for two consecutive weeks.

A park permit is required of each vehicle entering Rockford Lake SRA.

Lake Wanahoo SRA monarch habitat tour is Sept. 9

LINCOLN, Neb. – Families are invited to a monarch butterfly habitat tour Sept. 9 at Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area in Saunders County.

The free event is from 1-3 p.m. at the day use area on the east side of the lake. Following a presentation about the decline of monarchs and the type of habitats they need to survive, butterflies will be captured, tagged and released. Appropriate clothing and footwear are recommended.

The tour is made possible by Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Nebraska Environmental Trust. A park entry permit is required.

To learn more or register, visit NebraskaPF.com or contact Rob Gray at 402-367-2790.