Nebraskaland March 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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18 Nebraskaland • March 2019 PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHRIS HELMS AN UPLAND SLAM CHALLENGE "Thirteen-year-olds like a challenge," said Holdrege resident Chris Helms. "My son Aiden and his friends will get on YouTube and are always looking for a challenge." So when Chris mentioned Nebraska's Upland Slam to Aiden, it didn't take much convincing to get started. Nebraska's Upland Slam, introduced by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in 2018 alongside Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, challenged hunters to harvest four birds – a sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie chicken, ring- necked pheasant and northern bobwhite quail – in Nebraska to receive an official certificate, pin and to be registered to win one of several prizes, including a Browning Silver 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun. But like many of the 140 other hunters who completed the Upland Slam, Chris and Aiden were much more interested in the challenge itself than the potential prizes. "It definitely motivated Aiden to get in the field with me," said Chris, who was also hunting beside their 8-year-old Brittany spaniel named Molly. "With Molly's age and Aiden wanting to do this, it was special for me." An upland hunter, Helms usually goes two to three times a week. "It's my thing," he said. "It also helps me stay in shape. "I knew there'd be challenges with the chickens and sharpies because of the amount of walking with a 13-year- old," he continued. "We had multiple 26,000-step days. During these walks, we might be five miles in before we saw birds. It was tough." Nearly all of their walks were on land open to public access, where they harvested every bird between them except one. The only private land bird was Aiden's quail, which came less than 50 yards from where Chris shot his first pheasant as child on land that has been in their family since the 1870s. It was a challenge where father and son faced constant adjustments. A 4-H trapshooter, Aiden was not yet used to pheasants flushing at his feet, something dad had to talk him through during their hunts. There was also the challenge of a young hunter carrying a gun for so many miles. "I learned a ton on these trips," said Chris, who enjoyed seeing the look of excitement on Aiden's face after each new harvest. "It's been motivating for me to seek other upland adventures." All in the company of a bird dog in her prime, and a son just coming into his own. By Jeff Kurrus IN THE FIELD

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