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Franklin teenager gets chance to hunt a mountain lion

Franklin teenager gets chance to hunt a mountain lion

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A south-central Nebraska teenager fighting brain cancer will get a chance to hunt a mountain lion next year.

Holden Bruce, 15, of rural Franklin won Wednesday's Nebraska Game and Parks Commission lottery. He was one of 395 who entered.

His family moved from Bennet to Franklin near the Kansas-Nebraska border about 21/2 years ago. His dad, Jeremy, has had thyroid cancer and his mother, Michelle, breast cancer. Holden's latest cancer surgery was in April.

"They were able to remove all of his tumors — both of them," said his father. "His last (brain) scan was in July. It came back clean."

He said his son killed a 13-year-old male lion in Arizona three years ago and was excited to win the lottery.

The Arizona hunt was courtesy of Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation, a nonprofit that grants hunting and fishing dreams to people younger than 21 diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.

The cat's tanned skin hangs on Holden’s bedroom wall.

"We ate the meat. It was tough," Jeremy Bruce said. "I told him, If you're gonna hunt it, we're gonna eat it."

His dad, Grandfather Rodney Steinkruger and brother Tristan, 17, will join Holden on the January hunting trip in the Pine Ridge area.

"It will probably be cold and miserable. Hopefully, the weather cooperates," Jeremy Bruce said.

Only Nebraskans could enter the lottery to harvest a mountain lion in the first of two state seasons. The first runs Jan. 1-Feb. 14.

One other person will be guaranteed an opportunity to hunt during the first season, but they definitely will pay for the experience.

The Nebraska Big Game Society will auction off one permit at its Oct. 16 meeting at the Mahoney State Park Lodge near Ashland. Anyone can bid at the 7:30 p.m. auction.

Along with a permit, the winning bidder will receive up to five days' hunting, including a guide with dogs and as many as four nights of lodging.

Auction proceeds will go to the Game and Parks Commission for mountain lion conservation, management and research.

One hundred other people whose names were drawn Wednesday could participate in the state’s second season, Feb. 15-March 31.

Under rules approved in July by the commission, the two hunters selected for the first season will each be allowed to kill a male lion. If two or one female are killed, the season ends immediately.

If neither Holden nor the auction winner gets a lion during the first season, they can compete during the second, which ends the same way.

Mountain lions are native to Nebraska but were wiped out by early settlers and essentially vanished after 1890. A century passed before the next sighting, in 1991 near Harrison in Sioux County.

Since then, they have recolonized the Pine Ridge area, where a breeding population of about 22 big cats exists today. But sightings of young, male mountain lions have been reported as far east as Omaha.

In July, the commission established four units — Pine Ridge, Keya Paha, Upper Platte and Prairie. Next year, hunting will be allowed in Pine Ridge and Prairie.

Beginning Jan. 1, permits will be sold for the Prairie Unit, which covers about 85 percent of the state. Permits will be available through the end of the year at a cost of $15.

"You can buy them any time, and the season is open all year," said Pat Cole, budget fiscal administrator for the Game and Parks Commission. "But we don't have any population in the rest of the state, so the odds are not good to harvest or see a lion."

He said had expected about twice as many applicants for Wednesday’s lottery. Similar hunts in other states have drawn about 1,000 applicants, he said.

Each person applied electronically and paid a $15 fee.

The highest number of applications — 41 — came from the Chadron area, Cole said. Omaha had 24, Alliance 21, Hay Springs 17, and Lincoln 13.

Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

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