Like many other states, last year's epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreak killed thousands of whitetails in Nebraska, prompting wildlife officials to reduce the number of hunting permits available in 2013.
"The EHD outbreak likely killed 30 percent of our whitetails, so herd growth is our objective in most units," said Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Big Game Program Manager Kit Hams. "About 70 percent of all bonus antlerless tags have been eliminated, so we expect lower hunting success as populations begin to rebuild."
Hams believes that deaths caused by EHD explain why last year's whitetail buck harvest was down 30 percent compared to 2011. The mule deer buck harvest was also down, but not due to EHD. Instead, officials blame brain worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) for lower mule deer numbers in 2012, resulting in fewer animals being harvested by hunters. While most whitetails in the eastern part of the country carry brain worms, they rarely kill whitetails. For mule deer, it's a different story. Once infected, symptoms of brain worm are readily detectable, including walking in circles, frequent stumbling and poor coordination and balance. Within a few days, the mule deer is dead.
Despite the population decline, in 2012 the number of older-age mule deer bucks harvested was the highest it's been in the last three hunting seasons.
To help increase all deer numbers, 3,900 fewer November firearms permits and 6,700 fewer Season Choice antlerless permits were issued for this fall. In addition, 77,000 antlerless bonus tags were removed from the total number of buck permits issued for archery, muzzleloader, youth, and statewide hunting seasons.
The news isn't all bad. The state added 600 antlerless-only permits with antlerless-only whitetail bonus tags to the Frenchman (400) Pine Ridge (100) and Sandhills (100) Units, and the River antlerless permit quota increased to 5,500.
This year non-residents will be limited to one buck during the statewide hunting season, and no antlerless mule deer may be harvested North of U.S. Highway 20 and West of Nebraska Highway 71.
Public land hunters will also find fewer hunting opportunities. The Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge is closed to the harvest of antlerless mule deer. Hunters at the Medicine Creek, Red Willow, Enders and the Swanson State Recreation Areas/Wildlife Management Areas are also prohibited from using a Season Choice antlerless permit.
A deer hunter shot and killed a mountain lion that was stalking him near Ainsworth, Neb. this weekend, reports the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Nebraska's gun deer season opened Saturday, and the unidentified hunter was hunting from his ground blind. When he left the blind, he noticed a mountain lion walking parallel to him about 35 yards away. The big cat then made eye contact with the hunter and circled in front of him.
The hunter shot the 150-pound cougar and reported the kill to a GPC conservation officer. An official investigation determined the hunter's actions were justified given the big cat's behavior.
According to the Nebraska GPC, a person may kill a mountain lion without a permit only if it "stalks, attacks, or shows unprovoked aggression" towards someone. It's also permissible to kill a cat if it is actively preying on livestock. Unlawfully killing a mountain lion can cost you up to $1,000 and three months in jail.
Four states approved measures to protect citizens' rights to hunt, fish, and trap during Tuesday's election. Constitutional amendments guaranteeing these rights passed with strong margins in Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming, reports the Associated Press.
With 83 percent of Idaho's vote counted Wednesday morning, 74 percent of voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment. The new amendment declares that hunting, fishing, and trapping "shall forever be preserved for the people," and it garnered support from more than 80 percent of voters in 13 counties. Only Blaine County failed to pass the amendment, with 65 percent of voters rejecting the provision.
Idaho and Wyoming joined 13 other states that already amended their constitutions with similar measures. Kentucky and Nebraska voters also passed amendments to protect hunting and fishing rights, but not trapping.
Although only 25 percent of Kentucky's vote has been counted as of Tuesday night, its hunting and fishing amendment won approval from a whopping 85 percent of voters, according to the AP.
Nebraska voters passed their hunting and fishing amendment with 76 percent approval. Not only does the new amendment guarantee hunting and fishing in the state a right, it also declares hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife the preferred method for wildlife management, reports the Nebraska News Service.
Wyoming has not yet reported voter approval statistics.
These four states were the only states with ballot measures to protect hunting, fishing, and trapping rights, and all four passed. Although some critics argued no threat to these rights existed in the first place, supporters sought to prevent any future attempts by antis to shut down game and fish pursuits.