BISMARCK — North Dakota prides itself on creating an environment beneficial to hunters, and several pieces of legislation under consideration this session aim to build on that reputation.
The hunting bills still alive, having passed in the House or Senate, have all had strong support from a majority of lawmakers and move now to the other chamber, where they will go through more committee hearings.
The Legislature is working on a bill relating to trespassing on private land. SB 2144 would allow landowners to designate their land as closed to hunting through an online database.
Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, is the prime sponsor of the bill and said it would be beneficial to all.
“All land is considered open unless it’s posted physically or electronically,” Erbele said. “It gives a fair number of our landowners what they have been looking for in terms of property rights.”
During the bill’s committee hearing in January, lawmakers heard testimony that some landowners had to use multiple types of vehicles to get around their property to make sure it was accurately posted.
Erbele said the bill also states that all fenced land is considered closed, except to lawful hunters and anglers.
“That means that all properties that have a fence around it, is now going to be considered closed,” he said.
If there is no physical or electronic posting, hunters will be able to enter the land, Erbele said.
“It gives a fair number of our landowners what they have been looking for in terms of property rights,” he said. “They don’t have to question who is out there.”
The bill also detailed punishments for those who disregard the posting, including making it a class C felony to illegally enter a highly secured premises.
Adding fluorescent pink as a color while big game hunting, through Senate Bill 2143, is another popular piece of hunting legislation still alive.
Sen. Kristin Roers, R-Fargo, sponsored the bill after she had bought a pink hunting jacket and realized it would be illegal to use. “The only clothes that were cut for a female body were in blaze pink,” she said.
Roers said there was no signage stating it was illegal in North Dakota, and she only found out after a friend had informed her.
Studies on blaze pink done by the University of Wisconsin showed pink had a visibility similar or better than orange, Roers said.
“Blaze pink is legal in nine states, including Minnesota and Wyoming,” she said.
Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, D-Fargo, carried the bill in the Senate and hoped its passage would lead to continued enthusiasm toward hunting in the state.
“A little something like this is just going to encourage participation in this sport, I believe,” he said.
The bill passed on the Senate floor by a vote of 43-4.
HB 1411, introduced by Rep. Bill Tveit, R-Hazen, on Jan. 28, described the bill as a predator control bill. The intent is to allow North Dakotans to protect their crops and livestock from predators at any time of the day or night throughout the year.
“It allows only the landowner, the tenant or his agent to night hunt on one’s own premises as needed to control predators and the losses they create,” he said.
The bill passed resoundingly in the House and will have a hearing in the Senate in the coming weeks.
Hunting for nonresidents in North Dakota produced some slight confusion during pheasant season, which is why HB 1218 was introduced on behalf of the state Game and Fish Department.
The first seven days of pheasant hunting season, non-residents are not allowed to hunt on state or private lands enrolled in the Private Land Open To Sportsman (PLOTS) program, said Jeb Williams, the department’s wildlife division chief.
“This would allow that non-resident landowner to hunt on his piece of property the first seven days of the season,” he said. “We think that is a good incentive for nonresident landowners to enroll in the PLOTS program.”
Williams said with the current statute in place, many are reluctant to enroll as they are not willing to give up the first week of hunting in North Dakota.
HB 1218 passed the House unanimously, with two representatives absent.
Dylan Sherman is a reporting intern with the North Dakota Newspaper Association.