Take a leap forward with these outdoor activities • Nebraskaland Magazine


It arrived on schedule. The amount of daylight increases. The weather is warming up.

In Nebraska, there are a multitude of activities you can do in early spring. Here are several to encourage you to get out.

See early spring birds. A wide variety of opportunities await Nebraska birders in early spring. The wild bird migration is truly something to behold! The spring spectacle of Sandhill Cranes migrating along the Platte River in south-central Nebraska should be on everyone’s bucket list, combined with a trip to the Sandhills to see Greater Prairie-Chicken performing on their shortgrass prairie breeding grounds. Millions of ducks and geese also migrate through Nebraska in early spring and can be seen not far from home, especially in state parks and recreation areas with ample water available.

Sandhill Cranes stop at the stand along the Platte River near Kearney, NE during their spring migration from mid to late March. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Parks and Games Commission.

There is hunting to be done. If you like to hunt, don’t put away your gear! Because there are a few early spring options for pursuing different game birds in the Nebraska countryside. There is targeting of light geese (snow and Ross’s geese) during the Conservation Order hunting season, depending on migration, until April (check specific dates). There is hunting for upland game birds like pheasants in licensed controlled range areas or game reserves for a fee until April 15. And let’s not forget the fun and challenging spring wild turkey hunting seasons. Archery begins March 25, youth shotgun opens April 9, and regular shotgun begins April 16.

A tom turkey struts across a grassy field in rural Douglas County, NE on a warm spring day. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Parks and Games Commission.

Go fishing! Get your open water fishing gear in order, as Nebraska offers several species to catch after the ice melts in early spring, such as channel catfish, northern pike, crappie, bass large mouth and pan sized rainbow trout (when stocked). We early spring anglers would do well to focus our efforts with proper bait/lures fetched slowly along windswept shores, especially on the more sun-exposed northern shores of a body of water with darker backgrounds on a warm spring day. Also, the upper ends of the reservoirs, where the shallow water warms up quickly, should not be neglected. The sides of the docks most exposed to the afternoon sun can also be good.

A March fishing trip on the Missouri River in Knox County, NE produced this walleye. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Lace up hiking boots. Strap on your hiking boots, check the conditions, and head out to one of Nebraska’s many state parks for a hike, whether it’s a backpacking trip or a day hike. . At the beginning of spring, the parks are not crowded, probably because the weather is fickle. Hiking in early spring has many advantages. Among them, you will be able to shake off the winter blues, check your fitness, evaluate new equipment, plus there are no bugs and great views with tree leaves. A sturdy but comfortable pair of waterproof boots with adequate tread, along with woolen socks and hiking poles will get you through most trail conditions you will encounter. Oh, and a reminder: don’t forget the current state park permit for your motor vehicle.

This is a late March photograph of a suspension bridge over the backwoods portion of the nature trail system in the scenic Schramm Park State Recreation Area south of Gretna, NE. Photo courtesy of Schramm Education Center/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff.

Look for Shed Antlers. Travel outdoors with the family for fresh air and exercise, and search for cast or lost deer antlers. Deer shed their antlers for regrowth. Antler hunting is a great way to get an idea of ​​which bucks have likely survived hunting seasons and frequent your hunting area. Shed woods can also be used to make many crafts, such as knife handles, lamps, or picture frames, or simply be collected. Some people use them as “dog chews”. Any place where a deer’s antlers may fall, get thrown around, or be intentionally knocked over can be a place to start looking for lost antlers in Nebraska. A well-used deer trail that leads to a deer sleeping area or where a buck has to jump over things like fences, streams, and ditches are all good places to pick up “shelter.” Lands owned and controlled by the Game and Parks Commission.

A white tailed deer antler sits amid the leaves of a forest floor in early spring along the Elkhorn River in rural Sarpy County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Parks and Games Commission.

Fodder for Morel mushrooms. Hunting wild edibles in Nebraska means hunting morels in the spring. Emerging for a few weeks each spring, from around mid-April to mid-May, these mushrooms are highly prized for their rich flavor. Look for morels on warm, sunny days after spring rains. With their dimpled, cone-shaped cap, they are also relatively easy to find and identify in moist, mature forests near dead and decaying trees such as poplars and elms. River bottom areas are popular places to look for morels. For private land, whether displayed or not, morel pickers are reminded that they must have the landowner’s authorization to access any private property! Nebraska Game and Parks Commission lands are open for morel hunting, but with safety considerations during the spring wild turkey hunting season and provided there is a state park permit for morels. vehicles entering state park areas.

A close up of a morel mushroom in the mature woods of the Platte River in rural Douglas County, NE in mid-April. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Parks and Games Commission.

Hunt for animal tracks. Spring is the perfect time to celebrate nature’s exciting events with a journey to find and examine animal tracks. Before you leave home, research the wild animals found in your area, then venture safely to a nearby park, forest or rural area and start tracking them with an app on your mobile phone. The best places to specifically find animal tracks are any environment with lots of mud or sand in early spring. These locations would include muddy paths through the woods, along water edges (eg streams) and agricultural fields and sometimes even in a backyard garden. Your children may enjoy it so much that they will see nature in a whole new light. And guess what? They will start looking everywhere for animal tracks!

A coyote track is shown in the mud of a farm in rural Sarpy County, NE in early April. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Parks and Games Commission.

Pitch a tent or park a motorhome. From tents to motorhomes, sSpring can be a great time to camp! Cool nights, milder daytime temperatures, low humidity, and no crowds provide great conditions for camping in Nebraska parks or elsewhere in the spring. Camping can easily be combined with hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing activities. Spring campers should purchase their state park vehicle permit before their trip, bring cash for camping fees, pack drinking water and firewood, and throw in an extra warm blanket or two.

Primitive tent camping on a foggy spring day in the dunes of Nebraska. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Parks and Games Commission.

The simple fact of being surrounded by generous nature rejuvenates and inspires us. – E.O. Wilson