West Fargo Given the fall hunter harvest of pheasants in 2017 was down 24 percent from the previous year, there was really no reason to expect this spring's numbers would not be down in similar fashion. And they were, down 30 percent compared to last year. R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was down statewide, with decreases ranging from 15 to 38 percent in the primary regions holding pheasants.
West Fargo Many anglers know that the Red River that borders North Dakota and Minnesota is a nationally recognized fishery for catfish, and it's a certainly a target fishery for some residents and visiting anglers who may travel hundreds of miles to get here. While the Red River may by the catfish capital of North Dakota, the state does have many other waters where catfish can provide a different or new experience for anglers.
West Fargo One of the handouts at the spring round of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department advisory board meetings held in April was four pages that included two North Dakota state maps with counties color-coded for Conservation Reserve Program loss and two pages showing charts with pheasant harvest and deer license allocation. These two visual comparisons covered the time frame from 2007 to 2017 and clearly correlates the influence that habitat changes have on wildlife populations for North Dakota hunters.
West Fargo A listener to one of my radio programs emailed recently to suggest that perhaps I might not focus so much of my conversations on safety, as "it takes the fun away from being outdoors." I do always consider that "too much" factor when I write or talk about safety, but I have also seen enough injuries and dead bodies, especially early in my career when I was a game warden, to let one person or complaint change my tune.
West Fargo For several months now, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has spread the word to let hunters know the agency is no longer using paper applications for its lottery licenses. This new, inevitable process actually began last fall with applications for swan and fall turkey. It continued this year with spring turkey and moose, elk and bighorn sheep, all in preparation for online-only applications for deer gun and muzzleloader licenses, which involves significantly more people than all the other lottery licenses combined.
West Fargo While North Dakota's new fishing season officially began April 1, at that time pretty much anywhere outside of the Missouri River, people who were fishing were still drilling holes in the ice. The ice is gone now and the state's lakes are open for open-water fishing. Once again, North Dakota anglers have nearly 450 waters from which to choose, which may not sound like a lot, but consider this: In 1950, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department listed only 30 fishable waters in the state.
West Fargo Just like everything else this spring, the boating season is a little delayed. But as the air and water temperatures heat up, thousands will head toward the water to enjoy time fishing, boating, on personal watercraft, paddling a canoe or drifting along in a pontoon. Whenever that first outing occurs, keep safety at the forefront. No matter how many fish you catch or the number of hours spent on a personal watercraft, a trip to the emergency room or worse will erase any amount of fun you had.
West Fargo We're still a week or so away from the day the North Dakota Game and Fish Department starts accepting 2018 deer gun season lottery applications, so it's a good time for a refresher on how the deer license lottery works. But first, a couple of other reminders. One, the application period for gratis deer licenses is already open, so landowners can go to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department web site at gf.nd.gov at any time to get the process started.
West Fargo Regardless of whether spring comes early or late, North Dakota's paddlefish snagging season starts May 1. A quick review show's this highly managed, unique resource is specifically regulated, monitored and adjusted where needed. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has established some new rules related to paddlefish snagging this year, but before I get into those, I thought it would be of interest to highlight a timeline of paddlefish regulation changes throughout the years.
West Fargo I drove by a bald eagle nest the other day, and then another and another. It wasn't my intention as it was actually a route I drive on a pretty regular basis. I have known about all three of these nests for a number of years, and there is only about 40 miles in total distance between them.