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Governor’s Pheasant Hunt returns to Beatrice, promotes southeast Nebraska

November 6, 2018
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Justin Maxson of Ceresco walks through a rural Beatrice field Saturday morning on the lookout for pheasants. Maxson and 95 other hunters took to area fields as part of the annual Governor's Pheasant Hunt on Saturday.

Sixteen teams of six participated in the Governor’s Pheasant Hunt on Saturday morning in Gage County.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has attended the event every year since he’s been in office.

“It’s always been a lot of fun,” said Ricketts. “It’s a great way to promote the natural resources we have here in our state. Nebraska is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Gage County does a great job of drawing people and promoting all that we have here. This pheasant hunt is one of the ways that we do it.”

In 2017, the governor’s team came out on top.

“But it wasn’t because of anything that I did,” Ricketts joked.

Dan Kreitman, District 1 commissioner for Nebraska Game and Parks, said he had been hunting for about 65 years and has attended the hunt for the last three years.

“There have been changes in farming practices over the years and there are not as many grassland acres or CRP (Conservation Reserve Program),” Kreitman said. “That ultimately affects the number of birds that we have in our state. Not as many as 20 years ago.”

Tim McCoy, deputy director of Nebraska Game and Parks, said funding for most conservation work in Nebraska comes from two major places — hunting license sales and from the Pittman-Robertson Act.

The Pittman-Robertson Act was enacted in 1937 when a group of hunters asked congress to be taxed in order for funds to be used in hunting and fishing. It is collected nationally and held in a trust fund and distributed to each state based on number of licenses sold and other factors.

“In 1937, they could see that we could manage game populations, but it wasn’t able to get all the work done that we needed to do,” McCoy said. “It’s pretty integral in a lot of the conservation successes that’s happened nationally and in Nebraska.

“It’s been really successful. We are able to utilize and match those funds in Nebraska and it’s the biggest drivers for habitat conservation work that we do in the state,” McCoy said. “Hunting is partly about the socialization, but it brings together volunteers, landowners, and it can bring new people to an area and to the sport. The community benefits which is really important to me and fun to see the community embrace that excitement.”

Kreitman brought his son-in-law Justin Maxson and grandson Tucker Maxson to Beatrice for this year’s hunt. He said they hunted the hardest on the team.

“It’s wet out there and I just as soon post at the end of the field from the pickup,” Kreitman said.

Don Pegler, a team member from Lincoln said he’s not as hardcore a hunter as he used to be.

“It’s more about the adventure than the kill at my age.”

Jacob May volunteered to lead a team to the different fields of landowners that had given permission to Rick Clabaugh, organizer for the hunt. Jeff Hayes of Diller handled the dogs used.

Team members told stories of past hunts and joked with each other throughout the morning, but were serious about safety when walking in the fields.

“We look out for each other,” Pegler said.

The Governor’s Pheasant Hunt is a fundraiser for Beatrice Main Street. Michael Sothan, Director of Main Street, helped the teams check in the birds at the end of the morning hunt.

“Besides this being a fundraiser, it’s also a great opportunity to highlight southeast Nebraska as having some resources for hunting and outdoor recreation,” Sothan said.

The Governor’s Pheasant Hunt began in 2003 with just five or six teams and has grown to now attract nearly 100 hunters each year.

Teams sign up from mostly the Midwest, but the hunt attracts people from all over the United States, according to Clabaugh.

“This year there was someone from Texas on the governor’s team,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and people come into our community staying one or two nights and really enjoy it.

“We had 90 hunters and more volunteers than that. Dog handlers come from all over and volunteer their time. The landowners are extremely generous and everyone does their best to be certain the hunters have a good visit to Gage County.”

Winners in the controlled hunt at Cub Creek Hunting was the team from Cargill which included James Mitchell, Cody Simmons, Genaro Olvera, James Paul and James Machmueller.

Armstong Trucking took home honors in Division Two with team members Joe Armstrong, Zac Carpenter, Nick Sedlacek, Rob Schlictman and Erich Tiemann.

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