As a passionate pursuer of waterfowl, the owner of Prairie Swamp could have chosen anywhere to settle. But after decades of obsessively hunting nearly every type of habitat and style found in 27 states, 7 countries, and 3 continents… he concluded a 5-year, 3-state search by choosing portions of land along the North Platte River. An artist by nature as well as profession, he picked land with the vision and energy to create facilities that would successfully hunt Canada geese and mallard ducks, both birds on a World-Class level, and do so simultaneously – same blind, same setup! Furthermore, it was only natural that once he owned lands possessing a collateral benefit of monster deer, he too would find himself chasing illusive dream-fulfilling moments gained only from standing over large antlers at one’s feet. Learning how to improve land for both, the ventures have paid great dividends! Now, nearly twenty years into it, and with 5 prior undertakings of his own, as well as multiple projects completed for others, Prairie Swamp is the result of evolution – a perfect example of dreams meeting experience to accomplish a goal.
Below is a categorized overview. With Prairie Swamp having so much to talk about, it would be a disservice to not at least start the conversation touching on many things. But for real depth, please download the Brochure, found in the lower left corner at the bottom of the page.
The North Platte River in the panhandle of Western Nebraska is not only an integral part of the Central Flyway, but it might be considered by some, THE best area to hunt mallard ducks in the country! Realizing there are other more well known haunts… Arkansas, Mississippi Alluvial Valley, Columbia basin, and the Central Valley of California… all deeply loved by those who frequent them, perhaps to avoid a fight, it should be stated as “one of the best”. But there are none better! And if unrivaled Mallard hunting isn’t enough, Garden County, has historically been THE regional place for Canada Geese… even going back to the days when killing one could get your picture in the paper! Massive roosts located up and down the river keep thousands of Richardson’s, Lessor, and Greater Canadas throughout the season, returning every evening to sleep on the sandbars and meandering slow water.
These attributes are particularly true in one certain stretch of river, due to the protection afforded by the Garden County Refuge. The historic sanctuary it provides ensures a strong and reliable supply of geese and ducks that move on and off of it to feed, loaf, and search out wetland needs – exactly the traffic it takes for consistent hunting! And when coupled with Lake McConaughy, a 26-mile long reservoir that holds countless birds, and Clear Creek Refuge, a state managed facility, which is in the actual “business” of holding them, both of which in close proximity, Prairie Swamp is perfectly situated to benefit from a steady stream of “contenders” – every passing flock might be the one that “buys in”! And on Prairie swamp, they often do.
Perhaps with Mallards and Canadas making up essentially 100% of the bag, it is the quality of species that separate this area from so many other destinations. It also might be the liberal length of season – 90 days with usually 60 of them being good-to-excellent! Or, it may be the region’s
shear western beauty that adds to the experience. But when such ingredients are combined with a specific design and experienced implementation of development techniques, you find a place with optimum consistency and no better odds for success. Prairie Swamp is just that – “even a bad day at Prairie Swamp can be better than the best days elsewhere”
Western Nebraska deer are just plain big… period!!… Weather toting big racks or not! And though hunters keep secrets, along the North Platte there have been plenty of Boone & Crocket sized animals taken, and more than one on Prairie Swamp! It is thought the region hosts two subspecies – “Dakota” which means the genes of the huge specimens in Alberta and Saskatchewan – big heads, bodies, mass, and height! And the Texanus, said to be smaller in body, but not in antler. Common local deer characteristics are tall tines, heavy mass, non-typical features such as “muley forks”, kickers, occasional drop tines, and a lot of very long brow tines. These deer ARE truly “dream fillers”!
Big Whitetails love cover! And Prairie Swamp has perhaps not only some of the best examples of it along the North Platte, it’s bottomland that holds it, is probably one of the widest swaths that exists – nearly 1/2 mile! Much of it is a literal jungle of cedars and Russian olives so thick in places; it can hardly be traversed by man. In the portions where it is not, there is in fact everything else a whitetail hunter could want as well – cattails so tall in places, one can’t see much sky if standing inside them, prairie grasses diverse in height and species, and dense willow patches that deer can literally disappear into, but surprisingly pop back into view close to your stand. Overshadowing this complex of places to hide (as well as bed), are several groves of big cottonwoods and green ash to make up other desired habitat. With this amount of ideal components, not only does Prairie Swamp provide plenty of deer attracting characteristics, it can also offer a hunter an incredible feeling of being alone in the wilderness once down inside of it. There is probably no more enjoyable place along the North Platte River to spend a day in the deer stand, awaiting that special moment!
Make no mistake, Waterfowl and whitetails are the absolute “phenoms” on Prairie Swamp. But there is more! For one; it holds a lot of pheasants! Not the numbers of South Dakota, but there is in fact a huntable population. Diversity of cover and agriculture is perfect for these beautiful birds. And the current has spent very little time taking advantage of them, so they remain safe and sound, patiently awaiting a new owner’s interest.
Mostly Merriam’s, but also Rio Grands are plentiful in the area. And the big Toms will sometimes filter on to Prairie Swamp along the edges and into the corn and alfalfa fields. But the incredible density of the bottomland deer habitat actually makes them nervous. Also the wetness of the swampy areas is not their preference. So if turkey are the only thing you want to hunt, this is probably not your place. But there are some, and they are a great addition to the bag. And with little effort, one could probably increase their numbers. However it’s a balancing act of
perhaps decreasing some deer habitat to do it. The current owner has not chosen to do so, leaning more towards the deer.
Elk (Who knew?)
It is always a surprise to tell someone who has spent 20 years apply for a tag in Arizona’s White Mountains, that there are 400″ elk on Prairie Swamp. Most don’t believe it until they are shown a skull of one that was found dead. It officially measured 427″ gross, 411″ net. And it is not the only of that size in the area. The state record taken a few years back measured 409″ and was killed within 3 miles. Mind you tags are limited, a lottery etc. But Prairie Swamp has big elk!
Prairie Swamp Sloughs are a product of many things. They are first the restoration of historic waterways and dormant flight lines. But more uniquely, they are the result of an obsessed life-long hunter and artist, who has accumulated years of experience envisioning, designing, and fine-tuning notable sculptings of waterfowl habitat and hunting property gems! Not square ponds or straight line ditches, they are for one, picturesque to be sure; helping to create an environment that a hunter wants to spend his time, no matter the outcome of the day… far and above a simple desire to harvest birds. And certainly they provide tremendous value to the property’s diverse habitat complex. But these backwater wetlands were built as if Mother Nature were too; a duck hunter! The bends, meanders, depths, and bays are purposeful, and without guess work. They are intentionally shaped to provide a course of seductive decoy-water “honey holes” that repeatedly lure back-pedaling, feet-down, mallards and Canadas into the perfect 15-yard presentation, directly in front of an optimum blind location! All 3 slough blinds have a versatile layout of water, wind protection, and calculated “canvas” to paint the best spread for the day… irresistible to passing waterfowl! Beautiful to the eye and absolutely “smelling” of waterfowl, the look, features, and characteristics of the Prairie Swamp Sloughs are no accident!
Also to hunt hearty birds such as big Canadas and wintering northern mallards, open water is key to a long fruitful season. “Warm water slough” is a term thrown around a lot, and they exist, but to different degrees… literally. What furthermore separates Prairie Swamp Sloughs from most others, is the fact that they remain open in extremely cold temperatures! Not just “below freezing”, but way below!! Each of its 3 slough blinds have been successfully hunted in 22 below zero! If a waterfowl hunter has never experienced hunting the monopoly of owning the only open water in sub-zero conditions, they need to!
The Waterfowl Blinds
The thrill of waterfowl hunting is based so much on watching the birds work. Therefore Prairie Swamp’s blinds are simply something to fall in love with! They were designed and built with the objective of all participants enjoying every aspect of the hunt. They allow the hunter to witness the entire play-by-play of ducks and geese working a spread… while never being revealed and
are always the subject of compliment. Not only do they provide the comfort to allow a hunter to stay if the birds want to fly later, they are absolutely undetectable and high functioning! With more then one proprietary feature, they have amenities, yes, but first and foremost, they are designed for performance – well hidden, easy to see out of, easy to shoot from, easy to get ready for the hunt, and proven extremely effective as hunting tools (birds have literally landed on the top of them)!
Five in all, they are uniform to keep it simple. Each is a steel-framed fiberglass pit blind, custom-detailed, comfortably sized, heated and “cook ready”, and concealed by hinged racks supporting broomcorn-type camouflage. Three are located along the sloughs to hunt over water, and two are placed to “field hunt” in the corn.
It is one thing to have a great deer property. But it is another to have one benefitting from years of honing in the optimum locations for the highest rates of success in taking big deer. Prairie Swamp has 9 seasons under its belt. Efficient killers all of them, 7 deer blinds are perfectly positioned. Two are tower shooting houses, each heated and proven, and set along the perfect edge where river bottom cover meets crop field. They are very easily approached and stupidly deadly! Two tripods are located down in the “deer corridor” nearest to the river. They are, very sturdy, relatively high for tripods, and have a roof that shadows the hunter as well as wards off precipitation. Two more tripods that rotate 360 degrees are located one along the crops and one in the bottom… both very hidden! Each location brings value to hunter’s options.
In addition to the natural nutrition needed and gained from wetland plants or native grasses and other forage, 169 acres (approx.) of agricultural corn and alfalfa under two center pivots, are major contributors to this whitetail paradise and waterfowl magnet (not to mention some income). Both crops benefit hunting in their own way. During winter, corn is a major source of carbohydrates, necessary to fuel deer and keep other game such as waterfowl and pheasants alive. The alfalfa is attractive to geese and turkeys, but also a great source of protein for large antler growth.
The Garden County Refuge
Animals need 3 things: food, water, and safety. Therefore to sustain any real hunting quality, all three must exist within close proximity. The first two are obvious. But oddly, many hunters do not pay enough attention to the 3rd. The Garden County Refuge is a portion of the North Platte River that as it runs through Garden County Nebraska, set aside in 1925 to provide sanctuary to migratory birds as well as other game species and wildlife. It has proven tremendous benefits for over 90 years. Neither state nor federally owned, this wonderful asset is made up entirely of private land. Therefore the Refuge is simply a law regarding hunting, not a definition of ownership. One simple way to describe what is protected is “All that is river, plus a 110-yard wide border of it”. The genius of this law is that it protects everything about the river… all its channels, islands, variance of widths, depths, habitats, etc. This is hugely responsible for the
reliability of historic duck and goose roosts, and undisturbed bedding zones that can grow and hold monster whitetail bucks.
Furthermore it is a buffer zone between hunting parties across the river from one and other keeping enough space between setups to minimize impact and help achieve bag limits for both. It can also smoothly subvert possible arguments and fights over who owns what, and who gets to where, which sandbar, island, etc. These sorts of skirmishes can ruin the experience and are not unheard of on portions of the river that are not so wonderfully protected. It is a truly amazing piece of the puzzle!
Not as it was found, but as part of development, there is by design a system of access created on Prairie Swamp. This is for several reasons, not the least of which ease in managing the property. But also so that all deer stands and waterfowl blinds would be reliably accessible by pickup truck, and from the right entry for a particular time of day. Accessibility was a major improvement and a key component of this now virtual “Wildlife Park”!
Only 3 hours from Denver, and the greater Front Range area of Colorado, Prairie Swamp is located just south of Lewellen, Nebraska. And with its 4,700 ft runway located just 15 minutes away, the Oshkosh Airport is capable of handling private aircraft… including jets! King Airs, Lears, Citations, and even Hawkers have found their way in and out of Garden County. Other Airports include Searle Field Municipal Airport at Ogallalla, NE (30 minute drive), Western Nebraska Regional Airport at Scottsbluff, NE (1.5 hour drive), and Lee Bird Field at North Platte NE (1.5 hour drive)… the last two offering some commercial flights. Or if one wants to stop at Cabelas to make sure there isn’t yet something he or she does not own for hunting, the Lloyd W. Carr Airport at Sidney, NE is about a mile from its headquarters and is always a nice stop (50 minute drive to Prairie Swamp).
All in Township 16 North, Range 42 West of the 6th P.M. Garden County Nebraska Section 28: Tax Lot 5 & Pt. SE1/4SW1/4 – Gov Lot 1 & Tax Lot 6 in W1/2SW1/4(35.52 A Accr) Section 29: N . SE ., Government Lots 1 & 2 (+ Accr 129.27A GIS) (Imp-Cabin) Section 33: Pt. Lot 3 (+ Accr GIS 86.71A)
Please download the brochure for an in-depth explanation about what makes Prairie Swamp so special.
Video Links for TV programs featuring Prairie Swamp:
Ram Outdoorsman Prairie Swamp Mallards: https://vimeo.com/208760577/3292ce00c5
Ram Outdoorsman Chris’ 2nd Prairie Swamp Whitetail: https://vimeo.com/208759940/1fd35bf21d
Ram Outdoorsman North Platte River Ducks: https://vimeo.com/208759726/6fcd09094a
Ram Outdoorsman Chris 1st Prairie Swamp Deer: https://vimeo.com/208861229/1e3fd853aa
Browning Expeditions Prairie Swamp cold weather Mallards: https://vimeo.com/208747724/44ff7fd13c
Prairie Swamp - Lewellen, NE 69147, USA
Prairie Swamp- Lewellen, NE 69147, USA