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Outdoors notes: Deer check moves online because of coronavirus concerns

Outdoors notes: Deer check moves online because of coronavirus concerns

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Because of COVID-19 concerns, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will not run check stations this firearm deer season. Instead, all deer will be checked in electronically via Telecheck.

This decision was made to avoid close contact between check station workers and hunters during the Nov. 14-22 firearm deer season in an effort to protect public health.

One major change from years past is that hunters must complete the Telecheck process within 48 hours of their deer harvest and no later than 1 p.m. on the day following the close of the season.

To use online Telecheck, hunters should record their harvest at Hunters are required to log:

» Species of the animal

» Their permit number and name confirmation

» County where harvest was made

» Whether the deer was harvested on private, public or Open Fields and Waters Program land, and the name of the area if on public

» Management unit

» Date of kill

» Number of days hunted

» Weapon used

» Sex of the animal

» Whether the animal was an adult or fawn

» Whether the antlers, if present, have a spread of more or less than 11 inches between the main beams

Once hunters submit their registration, they will be provided with a seal number that must be written on their cancelled deer permit. Deer may not leave the state until registered.

Hunters who have difficulty completing the online registration process may call their local Game and Parks district office or service center between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the season: Lincoln, Wildlife Division office, 402-471-9932; Alliance district office, 308-763-2940; Kearney service center, 308-865-5310; Norfolk district office, 402-370-3374; Bassett service center, 402-684-2921; or North Platte district office, 308-535-8025.

Hunters also may complete Telecheck by calling 844-279-4564, available 24 hours a day.

Telecheck has been used to check all deer taken outside the November firearm season for the past 10 years.

Good start to pheasant season

Many hunters have reported seeing relatively good numbers of pheasants although dry conditions have posed challenges.

Although parts of Nebraska received snow last week, conditions remain very dry across much of the state. High winds opening weekend didn't help.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff contacted 1,250 upland bird hunters while making bag checks during the weekend. Those hunters harvested 601 pheasants, 121 quail, and 21 prairie grouse. Hunter success for pheasants averaged 0.48 birds per hunter, compared to 0.56 birds per hunter in 2019.

Staff talked with an additional 909 hunters at the 19 pheasant release sites across the state. They bagged 390 pheasants, of which 82% were pen-raised.

Regionally, hunter success for pheasants was highest in the Northeast and Southwest regions, which both averaged more than 0.5 birds per hunter. Most hunters were seen on publicly accessible lands such as wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas and private lands enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters Program.

Good numbers of quail were reported in portions of southeastern and south-central Nebraska, but relatively few hunters targeted bobwhites.

Hunting activity by district:

Southwest: Hunter activity was relatively high on public lands. OFW sites in Hayes, Perkins, Chase, Red Willow and Hitchcock counties continue to be popular among pheasant hunters, but success was highly variable among parties. Hunter use also was high on some of WPAs in the western Rainwater Basin, but reports indicate harvest was below average. Hunters reported seeing good numbers of quail throughout many counties in south-central Nebraska. According to field reports, crop harvest was 75-95% complete.

Southeast: Similar to past years, hunting pressure was high on most pheasant release sites. Hunter use also was relatively high on public lands in the eastern Rainwater Basin. Hunters reported seeing relatively good numbers of pheasants, with some groups averaging 0.5 birds per hunter. Hunting activity elsewhere was relatively low, and the few hunters observed on private lands were having moderate success. Good numbers of quail were reported in a number of southeastern counties, but few hunters were targeting them. Soybean harvest was nearly complete and corn was more than 85% harvested.

Northeast: Most hunters were observed using public lands throughout the district, including OFW sites and WMAs. The majority of hunters reported seeing relatively good numbers of birds where CRP was abundant. Some of the better reports came from OFW sites in Cedar, Dixon, Knox and Dakota counties, where hunters had fair to good success. Hunting activity and success was relatively lower elsewhere in the district. Crop harvest was 75-95% complete in eastern portions of the district but further behind to the west.

Northwest: Compared to 2019, hunters had relatively lower success on opening weekend but the dry, dusty conditions were less than ideal. Many hunters reported seeing good numbers of pheasants and grouse, with some of the better reports coming from counties in the southern Panhandle. Due to dry conditions, birds were reportedly very flighty and tough to get within gun range. Very few hunters were encountered on private land throughout the district, and overall hunter activity was considerably low on Sunday. Crop harvest was 70-85% complete.

Plenty of upland opportunities remain, and hunters can find trip planners, tips for success and buy permits at Pheasant, quail and prairie grouse seasons continue through Jan. 31.

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