The season for gratitude and reflection is upon us.
Thanksgiving week is when we remind our families, friends and close associates how much they mean to us and express our sincere appreciation for what positive things we have been given in life.
While you are considering what you are thankful for, don’t forget about Nebraska’s outdoor scene.
During the nine days of the recent firearm deer hunting season here in Cornhusker State, I selected thirteen key elements to be very grateful for while I was in the field. As you read through these and look at the photos, I want you to think about specific items or aspects in the natural world of which you are so grateful.
(1) I am very grateful for the time around rural Nebraska sunrises and sunsets that always seem to be spectacular. (I love this quote: “Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise.” – George Washington Carver).
(2) I am very grateful for water, as it flows in this spring-fed creek, for without water there is no life. It is the basis of the fluids of living organisms. (Simply put: I will tell you that water has emerged as the “new gold,” one of the single most important resources of Planet Earth).
(3) I am very grateful for native trees — most notably the unmistakable bark of the hackberry below. (I always say: If only the bark of older native trees could speak to me and tell me what they have seen over the years).
(4) I am very grateful for open, mature woodlands where many species of wildlife roam and call home. (I am a fan of older growth forests and the wildlife that live in them).
(5) I am very grateful for nongame wildlife species such as this white-breasted nuthatch because all wildlife matters. (Everything in nature is connected, you know).
(6) I am very grateful for the successful reintroduction of various wildlife species like the wild turkey. (I never tire of watching wild turkeys, especially up close).
(7) I am very grateful for the sights and sounds of wildlife visitors such as these migratory Canada geese. (I go to bed at night still hearing those geese overhead).
(8) I am very grateful for the beauty and pure solitude that nature offers in Nebraska. (I view time spent in nature as a mind-cleansing, soul-invigorating experience).
(9) I am very grateful for this special deer hunting blind that I use. It was built for me by my brother, Steve Wagner, due to a knee injury that prevents me from climbing a treestand. (It allows me to comfortably hunt deer and watch wildlife).
(10) I am very grateful for nature’s precious bounty and being able to be a direct participant in the conservation and management of wildlife and North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. (I was fortunate to harvest this adult white-tailed deer buck during the 2023 Nebraska firearm deer hunting season).
(11) I am very grateful for past generations who homesteaded lands where I hunt and enjoy nature today, and for landowners who allow me to hunt on their property. (I am indebted to the landowners who have conserved wildlife habitat and allow me to hunt on their land to make memories).
(12) I am very grateful for grasslands, most notably for programs, e.g. USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, that encourage and enhance grassland habitat. (I value stands of grassland as natural, national treasures).
(13) I am very grateful for important plants like the common milkweed that thrive on my aunt’s farm today and provide superb pollinator habitat as well as critical habitat for the monarch butterfly. (I always remind myself that monarchs and milkweeds are tied together).
How about you, what are you very grateful for in nature?