North Dakota’s 200 wildlife management areas total about 220,000 acres of state land open to hunters. These aren’t Private Land Open To Sportsmen acres. PLOTS are private lands enrolled in the Game and Fish Department-administered program.
The department WMAs have specific rules and regulations to balance and reduce potential conflicts, which can and do occur when areas attract crowds, or people try to pre-empt space.
This time of year, one of the more applicable rules relates to placement of tree stands or ground blinds for deer hunting. The stands must be portable and be identified with the owner's name, city and telephone number, or a unique identification number issued by the department. All equipment left on a WMA overnight, including ground blinds, game cameras and traps, must have this identification.
Owners can generate an equipment registration number in their account on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. You only need to do this once, and the registration number can be used on all equipment requiring identification.
I think most hunters are aware of these rules, yet it’s surprising how many tree stands and trail cameras – dozens per year – Game and Fish staff wind up removing because people don’t retrieve them by the Jan. 31 removal deadline.
Tree stands and ground blinds also do not pre-empt hunting rights of others in the vicinity, but certainly there’s a level of courtesy involved that says if you’re pheasant hunting and see someone sitting in a tree stand in the area, you give them a wide berth. The other side is that someone in a tree stand on a public hunting area can’t expect they’ll have the area to themselves, which could include others putting up stands nearby, or even someone sitting in your stand.
Here are some other WMA rules and regulations to remember. A complete listing of all regulations is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov/wma.
Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.