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Taking advantage of new rules, college teammates offer hunting trip in South Dakota

Nash Hutmacher, a defensive tackle, brings fellow Nebraska Cornhuskers to his home state and as a brand ambassador for Halverson Hunts, offered others the chance to hunt with the football players.

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Nebraska football players, from left, Grant Tagge, Isaac Gifford, Luke Reimers and Garrett Nelson joined teammate and Oacoma native Nash Hutmacher on a hunting trip on Friday, Jan. 7 at Halverson Hunts south of Kennebec. Matt Gade / Republic
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic
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KENNEBEC, S.D. — Between his time pushing people around on the field and studying for classes, Oacoma native and Chamberlain High School alum Nash Hutmacher can oftentimes be found enjoying the outdoors.

Whether that’s fishing or hunting, the sophomore and current Nebraska defensive tackle, has a passion for the outdoors.

Nicknamed the “Polar Bear,” Hutmacher was able to merge his passions of football and the outdoors by taking his teammates on a January pheasant hunt in Kennebec.

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Luke Reimers, left, shares a laugh with Nash Hutmacher while walking back to the bus during a hunting trip on Friday, Jan. 7 at Halverson Hunts south of Kennebec.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

While temperatures reached into the 30s on Saturday, Jan. 8, that Friday’s hunt was on the colder side with temperatures in the single digits and gusty winds.

“I just like giving them crap that it's not that cold, but it is pretty chilly. Even when I am getting cold I’m still trying to play the tough guy card with them,” Hutmacher said. “Getting them up here, showing them where I'm from. You can tell them all about it. Tell them how the pheasant hunting is, the outdoors, all that stuff. But until they come up and actually see it, you can't explain seeing the 500 birds come out of the trees out there today to someone and have them really get what it's like.”

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While Hutmacher, would almost assuredly have been out hunting this past weekend, the former Cub has been able to take advantage of the Name, Image and Likeness rule changes that allows student-athletes to use their own representation to make money from it.

“It's just cool because it allows you to, you know, do what you love and actually, being able to make a little bit of money from it,” Hutmacher said. “It makes it that much better. I would still be out here doing the same thing even if I wasn't getting paid for it.”

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Nash Hutmacher, left, along with the rest of the hunters ride the bus to the third field during their hunting trip on Friday, Jan. 7 at Halverson Hunts south of Kennebec.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

Hutmacher signed on with Halverson Hunts out Kennebec to be a representative brand. That wasn’t much of a stretch for Hutmacher, who is the great-nephew of owner Steve Halverson, and Hutmacher says he essentially grew up at the lodge.

“He's kind of always been part of us,” Halverson said. “He's grown up out here since he was probably 5 years old, in kindergarten, and helping Joe (Hutmacher) do odds and ends and whatever. So it's just great with this name, likeness and image to have him represent us and we're just very proud of what he's become.”

Joining Hutmacher on the hunt including some of his teammates; Luke Reimers , Garrett Nelson , Grant Tagge and Isaac Gifford .

Nelson, of Scottsbluff, Neb., said he enjoyed getting to hang out with some of his teammates on their home turf.

“We always kind of poke fun of (Nash) for being from South Dakota. We’re always like, ‘Oh, I thought North Dakota was better,” said Nelson, a junior outside linebacker. “This kind of reminds me a lot of home, where I'm from. A little bit colder out here, but I love to see where my teammates are from and where they're proud to be from. Not having a lot of pheasants where I'm from and coming up here with some of my best friends and doing hunts like this — I mean it's sweet.”

An eye-opening experience

Hutmacher conducted the hunt with his Huskers teammates, selling the experience to hunt with them for $1,750 per participant with a limit of six hunters.

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The package included lodging at Arrowwood Resort at Cedar Shore in Oacoma, dinner with the Husker hunters, the hunt, lodge and bird fee and photo and autograph opportunities with the players.

Hutmacher organized the event with Gerrod Lambrecht, of Athlete Branding and Marketing from Lincoln, Neb., that works with multiple Husker players and their NLI work.

Steve Halverson donated the players' portion of the hunt as thanks to Hutmacher.

“They've got some of these guys that came in, that are paying pretty good money for the opportunity to hunt with them at our place,” Halverson said. “These guys are college kids that you know, we've all been in college and also remember how tight the money was. It's just a good opportunity to help them out. And Nash has helped us out so much over the years. It's just my way to give back to him.”

Hutmacher said a portion of the proceeds will go to the South Dakota chapter of Pheasants Forever.

For Luke Reimers, a junior linebacker from Lincoln, it was his first time hunting. He had a blast doing it.

“Being really close with those guys, just hanging out and doing anything with them is a lot of fun,” said Reimers, who took an assist knocking a bird down by wounding it before it was finished off by another teammate. “Growing up, (I) never went hunting. And so they were coming, so I was like, ‘Well, I’ll come, I'm not doing much back home anyway, so I'll go come up and go for the first time.’ It was a ton of fun. Shot a lot of birds, so it's good time.”

“I'm taking credit for that one,” he joked.

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While Reimers may have gotten an assist on one bird, he finished the 2021 season as an all-Big Ten honorable mention linebacker with 60 solo tackles and 48 assisted for 108 total in 2021 with one sack.

For Nelson, the NLI arrangement Hutmacher has with Halverson Hunts was encouraging for him on future possibilities.

“This definitely kind of opened my eyes and seeing what I can do. Growing up with my dad we’d go to Canada and Alaska and fish and being all over the world all over the country to go hunt, fish with him. I've always kind of been in that realm and now that I've seen the possibility to do it,” Nelson said. “I know Nash is doing this, there's a chance that I can do something at home or anywhere else.”

At Nebraska, Hutmacher and his teammates said the university and staff have been supportive in the players taking advantage of NIL. The university started working with student-athlete branding companies in 2020, a year before the NIL rules ended up going into effect.

“Nebraska has always been kind of the forefront of you know, strength conditioning or football and things like that technology advanced advancement and with this NIL deal it’s no different,” Nelson said. “They're promoting it, let their athletes go, handle it on their own and be their own business being their own partners. Do what they want to do and have the freedom to choose what you want to do with an eye on this. That's huge for us today.”

Notable Husker athletes who have NIL deals include volleyball player Lexi Sun, basketball player Trey McGowns, baseball pitcher Cade Povich, among many others.

While Hutmacher has been able to utilize that NIL to his benefit, his passion for hunting and the outdoors is something he’s always enjoyed showcasing to friends, teammates and even coaches.

In December 2019, a day after officially signing his National Letter of Intent to join the Huskers, Hutmacher had head coach Scott Frost, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, former defensive line coach Tony Tuioti and former quarterback coach Mario A. F. Verduzco out at Halverson Hunts for a pheasant trip.

“We were very excited to have have coach Frost here ... just a stand up, outstanding guy. Great hunter, great shot,” Halverson said. “We like that connection with what's going on. And the more of these people that were around, we realize that they've got just some outstanding individuals that are their student-athletes down there. And I guess we're just enjoying being a part of it and showing them our little slice of paradise.”

As it’s the first year of NIL for student-athletes, it’s also just the second year of an extended pheasant hunting season in South Dakota, which ends Jan. 31.

Without that extended season, Hutmacher wouldn’t have been able to organize this hunt. It’s also the best time to hunt pheasants, according to Halverson.

“Late season, birds can be a little more of a challenge to figure out where they're at," Halverson said. “Our first plot, we didn't see a single bird, because I thought that maybe they were still feeding but it was cold, windy — that pressured or pushed the birds back into the trees early. After that we got dialed in. The best time of the year is, end of the year, the birds are bunched up and takes a lot of strategy. But it's so much fun.

“When school gets out, they have to go home and see their parents and then they're tied up for the holidays. But this is just kind of one last hurrah before they go back to the grind of their schoolwork. So the extended season has worked worked out great for (Hutmacher).”

As for the hunt itself, the hunters hit their limits and everyone enjoyed taking part.

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Nash Hutmacher hits a rooster that flew out of a field while hunting on Friday, Jan. 7 at Halverson Hunts south of Kennebec. Matt Gade / Republic
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

Better-than-expected pheasant numbers

Despite a drought this past spring and summer, Halverson said that his bird numbers were better than he anticipated.

Halverson said numbers were up largely because of the dew moisture. That fed a lot of the grasshoppers and insects, which the pheasants would feast on.

In 2012, another bad drought hit South Dakota but it didn’t feature that moisture dew for the insects. That led to a huge loss of birds that year.

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Just some of the birds are laid on the back of a truck while unloading them from one of the fields during a hunting trip on Friday, Jan. 7 at Halverson Hunts south of Kennebec. Matt Gade / Republic
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

“We had no dew, no insects,” Halverson said. “You'd see a day-old chick. You'd never see a week-old chick. They just didn't make it. So the numbers are good this year. We obviously need them to keep improving. We'd like to get back to where we were 10 years ago. ... If we can just get a normal hatch. I think South Dakota is gonna be back on the map and, and some fantastic pheasant numbers.”

While the extended season goes until the end of the month, Halverson Hunts doesn’t have any more hunts lined up and still saw it’s largest number of hunters since it began operation in 1985. The lodge saw over 480 pheasant hunters this season, mostly repeat hunters who enjoy the Kennebec lodge.

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Joe Hutmacher, left, pulls a couple of birds out to place in the back of the truck as his son Nash, center, and the other hunters see what they got from the second field of the morning while hunting on Friday, Jan. 7 at Halverson Hunts south of Kennebec. Matt Gade / Republic
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

Matt is the staff photographer for the Mitchell Republic.
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