Nebraska’s Bighorn Sheep hunting season ended Friday afternoon, Dec. 4, as the state’s only permit holder found success at Fort Robinson State Park in the Pine Ridge.
Matt Odgen of Grand Island, who won his permit by a drawing open to Nebraska residents, harvested a 10-year-old Rocky Mountain bighorn ram from the herd that roams the northwest Nebraska tourist attraction.
Todd Nordeen, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission big game and disease research manager who supervises the hunting program, said the ram, with a gross score of 170 2/8 on the Boone and Crockett scale, was a trophy caliber sheep.
“It had 15-inch bases, which is on the upper end of mass for a good sheep. He’s impressive,” he said. “The ram had good horn length at 38 inches on the right side and 34 inches on the left.”
Odgen’s harvest marks the 28th in Nebraska since the Game and Parks Commission’s hunting program began in 1998.
The number of Nebraska bighorn sheep permits available each year is based on the state’s population of the species, especially mature rams, as determined during monitoring by Game and Parks staff. To date, permits have been limited to one or two hunters each year.
Not only do the hunts provide a rare experience and uncommon table fare, they also have been vital to bighorn sheep conservation in Nebraska. The more than $1.5 million raised through the lottery applications and auctions has been put into research and reintroduction efforts.
Permit winners are assisted by Game and Parks staff and treated to meals and lodging at Fort Robinson State Park.
Nebraska’s reintroduction efforts for bighorn sheep began in the 1980s, an attempt to remedy the unregulated hunting, habitat loss and disease that led to their extirpation from the state in the late 1800s. Nebraska’s population of bighorns stands at more than 300 specimens in both the Wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge.
More information about the hunting program and how to apply for the permit lottery may be found at outdoornebraska.org/bighornsheeplottery.