FROM THE DAKOTAS
Party Hunting in ND
North Dakota Outdoors
North Dakota Game and Fish Department
By Doug Leier
For as long as I can remember, party hunting has never been legal in North Dakota. Which means each individual hunter must take only his or her own daily limit, or fill his or her own deer tag.
The same concept also applies to fishing. There is no legal distinction between shooting someone else’s deer, and catching an extra fish to “help” your buddy fill out. Once a hunter or angler has reached the limit, he or she cannot legally shoot or catch anything that helps a partner reach their daily limit.
This issue, particularly as it relates to deer, still generates periodic interest, but the state legislature has voted down every recent opportunity to allow party hunting.
At advisory board meetings and other public forums, North Dakota Game and Fish officials are routinely asked why North Dakota doesn’t allow party hunting.
In states like North Dakota where a limited and specific number of deer licenses are issued by unit, party hunting could, in the long run, reduce a person’s chances for obtaining high-demand licenses, such as for whitetail and mule deer bucks.
Under one scenario party hunting could lead to a higher hunter success rate, which might influence Game and Fish to reduce the overall number of licenses, especially buck licenses, to counter that increased hunter success. This would mean fewer hunters would get buck licenses.
Under another scenario, if party hunting were allowed, then a person could find, say, three other people who are not that interested in buck hunting (the spouse, kids, neighbors), but would go along anyway. Then the one real deer hunter could legally shoot four bucks. The result could be that three serious and dedicated hunters would go without a buck license that year.
Either scenario would eventually increase the level of dissatisfaction over license availability, which is already a common concern among hunters.
Let’s not forget that not everyone party hunts, or wants to. While the rule may be difficult to enforce, most people are honest and stay within the law. Plus, many hunters understand that “group limits” associated with party hunting are counterproductive to keeping young hunters interested.
One of the worst possible feelings for a young hunter would be having to put his or her tag on a deer someone else shot. The party philosophy, whether it’s deer, birds or fish, and whether it’s legal or not, reduces opportunity for beginning hunters or anglers because they are usually not the most skilled.
Instead, the group should make it a priority to give young hunters and anglers as many chances as possible, and if they don’t get a limit ... then they don’t get a limit.
North Dakota isn’t alone its approach to party hunting. Some nearby states have limitations on party hunting and/or fishing, and federal regulations prevent any state from allowing party hunting for migratory birds.
Hunters who have filled out in North Dakota can, however, continue beating the brush to help scare up deer or pheasants, so the day doesn’t have to end when you’ve filled your tag or limit.
Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department.
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Fall Mule Deer Survey Completed
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s fall mule deer survey indicated fawn production in 2017 was lower than in 2016.
Biologists counted 2,548 (3,003 in 2016) mule deer in the aerial survey in October. The buck-to-doe ratio of 0.32 (0.48 in 2016) was lower than the long-term average of 0.43 bucks per doe, while the fawn-to-doe ratio of 0.76 (0.90 in 2016) was down from the long-term average of 0.91 fawns per doe.
Big game biologist Bruce Stillings said survey conditions were much warmer than normal, with nearly 50 percent leaf cover, which he said could explain the lower buck-to-doe ratio.
“And this year’s lower fawn production was expected based on the previous winter conditions, but it was still at a level able to support stable-to-increasing deer numbers, depending on the severity of the upcoming winter,” Stillings said.
The fall aerial survey, conducted specifically to study demographics, covers 24 study areas and 306.3 square miles in western North Dakota. Biologists also survey the same study areas in the spring of each year to determine deer abundance.
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Deer Season Questions and Answers
Every year the North Dakota Game and Fish Department receives questions from deer hunters who want to clarify rules and regulations. Some common questions are listed below. Hunters with further questions are encouraged to call the Game and Fish Department at 701-328-6300, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays, or access the hunting and trapping link at the department’s website, gf.nd.gov.
Can I carry both bow and gun afield during deer gun season if I have both licenses? Yes, but only if you are going to fill your gun license. No firearms, except handguns, may be in the hunter’s possession while hunting with a deer bow license. However, handguns may not be used in any manner to assist in the harvest of a deer with an archery license.
What licenses do I need for deer gun season? A fishing, hunting, and furbearer certificate, the general game and habitat stamp or a combination license, and the deer license. Gratis license holders need only the gratis license.
Can I use my gratis license to take a mule deer doe? Not in unit 4A.
I shot a deer in Unit 3F2. What field dressing restrictions must I follow? Hunters cannot transport a carcass containing the head and spinal column outside of the unit unless it’s taken to a state-inspected meat processor within five days of the harvest date. In addition, the head can be removed from the carcass and taken to a licensed taxidermist or to a chronic wasting disease surveillance drop-off location. If the deer is processed in the field to boned meat, and the hunter wants to leave the head in the field, the head must be legally tagged and the hunter must be able to return to or give the exact location of the head if requested for verification.
I received a lottery license, and I own land in another unit. Can I hunt on my land in the other unit with my lottery license? A person who holds a valid license to hunt deer may hunt the same species and sex of deer on land in an adjoining unit for which that person would be eligible for a gratis deer license.
I can’t find my deer license. What should I do? You must obtain an application for a duplicate license from the Game and Fish Department – by calling 701-328-6300 or printing it off the website at gf.nd.gov. Fill out the form, have it notarized and return it to the Department along with a fee. You may not hunt without the deer license in your possession. If you find the original license after receiving a replacement, you must return the original to a local game warden or Game and Fish office.
Can hunters age 14 or 15 (and qualifying 13 year olds) with a youth season license who did not harvest a deer during the youth season hunt the regular deer gun season with this license? Yes, but you are subject to the restrictions listed on the license.
I was unsuccessful in filling my mule deer buck license in a restricted unit during the youth season. Can I hunt the remainder of the state during the regular gun season? No. You are restricted to the same unit as during the youth season.
I shot a deer, but it is rotten. What can I do? You must take possession of the animal by tagging it. A license only allows you the opportunity to hunt. It is not a guarantee to harvest a deer, or to the quality of the animal.
What should I do if I find a wounded deer? Contact a game warden. Do not shoot the deer unless you want to tag it, or are instructed by the warden to do so.
Is camouflage blaze orange acceptable for the deer gun season? No. You must wear both a hat and outer garment above the waistline totaling at least 400 square inches of solid daylight fluorescent orange.
I hunt with a bow. When do I have to wear orange? Only during the regular deer gun season.
Can I hunt road rights-of-way? Do not hunt on road rights-of-way unless you are certain they are open to public use. Most road rights-of-way are easements under control of the adjacent landowner and are closed to hunting when the adjacent land is posted closed to hunting.
Can I hunt on a section line if it is posted on both sides? No. If the land is posted on both sides, the section line is closed to hunting, but is still open for travel.
Can I retrieve a wounded deer from posted land? If the deer was shot on land where you had a legal right to be and it ran on posted land, you may retrieve it. However, you may not take a firearm or bow with you. The department suggests contacting the landowner as a courtesy prior to entering.
What if the landowner says I cannot retrieve a deer from posted land that was shot on land where I had a right to be? Contact a game warden.
Can I drive off a trail on private land to retrieve a deer? Unless prohibited by a landowner or operator, you may drive off-trail on private land once a deer has been killed and properly tagged. You must proceed to the carcass by the shortest accessible route, and return to the road or trail by the same route. However, off-trail driving is prohibited in all circumstances on state wildlife management areas, Bureau of Land Management lands, national wildlife refuges, national grasslands, federal waterfowl production areas and state school land.
Do I need to pay attention to the fire danger index in November? In a year with a lack of moisture it can be of concern. When these conditions are present, hunters should keep track of the daily fire danger index, which restricts off-trail vehicle use and recreational fires when the index is in the Very High, Extreme and Red Flag Warning categories. Some counties may also still have localized restrictions in place.
Can I transport someone else's deer? Yes, but you will need a transportation permit from a game warden. The license holder, person transporting the animal, and the carcass must be presented to the game warden before the permit is issued.
What if I am going to take my deer head to a taxidermist and meat to a butcher shop? How do I keep the tag with it all? The tag should remain with the head and the carcass tag should remain with the meat.
May I carry a pistol when I am hunting with a deer rifle? Yes, but the handgun must meet minimum requirements listed in the deer hunting regulations to be legal for taking deer.
Can I use a bow to fill my regular deer gun license? Yes. You may use any legal firearm or bow during the regular deer gun season.
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2016 Early Canada Goose Harvest Again Tops 36,000
For the sixth consecutive year, North Dakota early Canada goose season hunters bagged more than 36,000 birds, according to a recent harvest estimate released by the state Game and Fish Department. This is the combined harvest from the August Canada goose management take, and the September Canada goose hunting season.
The 2017 early Canada goose season is tentatively slated to start on Aug. 15 again, with a similar structure as in recent years.
While the 2016 harvest is somewhat lower than the peak early season bag in recent years, Game and Fish migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski says it’s still a highly successful season in the department’s effort to reign in the state’s resident Canada goose population.
Szymanski estimates that approximately 3,600 residents and 1,000 nonresidents who actually hunted averaged about 10 birds apiece for the combined effort in August and September, which started Aug. 15 with a “management take.”
The regular early hunting season started Sept. 1 and ran through Sept. 7 in the Missouri River zone, and through Sept. 15 in the rest of the state. In total, that’s about 18 percent fewer hunters than participated in 2015, a fact that Szymanski attributes to extensive late summer movement of Canada geese, which made finding huntable numbers of birds difficult in many areas.
“This late summer waterfowl movement is something that seems to be more pronounced in recent years,” Szymanski said. “Birds that were produced in North Dakota are showing up in Manitoba and Saskatchewan by early September. We don’t know if it’s related to avoiding hunting pressure or availability of food, as there’s very little harvested small grain fields for feeding in some areas. It could even relate to the birds trying to find cooler temperatures during years when we seem to be warmer than normal in the state.”
Barnes and Ramsey counties had the highest numbers of birds harvested by resident hunters, while McIntosh and LaMoure counties had the highest number of Canada geese harvested by nonresident hunters.
The top 10 counties for total harvest were Ramsey, McIntosh, Kidder, Benson, Stutsman, Barnes, LaMoure, McHenry, Nelson and Ward. Ramsey County had more than 3,000 birds harvested, while the estimate for Ward County in 10th place was 1,207.
“We’re seeing a good harvest in the eastern half of the state where there seems to be the most conflicts between crop producers and geese during the summer,” Szymanski said. “We need to keep the pressure on to keep our locally breeding Canada goose population from growing any larger.”
It’s really important for landowners experiencing depredation issues to allow goose hunters on their property not only during the early season, Szymanski said, but also in October and November as birds that may have made late-summer movements come back through the state.
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Supreme court decision prompts GFP action on Non-Meandered Waters
PIERRE, S.D. - In compliance with the recent Supreme Court ruling in Duerre v. Hepler, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) is closing Department-managed boat launches on non-meandered bodies of water.
"Recreational access to non-meandered waters is a complex issue that has impacted our state for decades," said Kelly Hepler, GFP department secretary. "Under this Supreme Court decision, GFP cannot facilitate access to non-meandered waters for recreational purposes."
According to the Supreme Court, the South Dakota State Legislature must determine whether and how the public may use non-meandered waters for recreational purposes. GFP cannot facilitate access to these waters until the State Legislature acts.
To comply with the Supreme Court ruling, GFP is posting signage and limiting access to infrastructure at the following water bodies, with the potential of additional water bodies to be added:
- Caseys Slough, Cottonwood Lake GPA, Dry Lake #1, Dry Lake #2 and Swan Lake in Clark County;
- Deep Lake and Goose Lake in Codington County;
- East Krause Lake, Lynn Lake, Middle Lynn Lake and Reetz Lake in Day County;
- North Scatterwood Lake in Edmunds County;
- Three Buck Lake in Hamlin County;
- Bullhead Lake and Cattail-Kettle Lake in Marshall County;
- Keisz Lake in McPherson County;
- Grass Lake, Loss Lake, Scott Lake and Twin Lakes in Minnehaha County;
- Twin Lakes in Sanborn County;
- Cottonwood Lake and Mud Lake in Spink County; and
- Dog Ear Lake in Tripp County.
Public notice signs will be posted in these areas by the end of April.
In accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, the Department has halted fish stockings, creel surveys, canoe and kayak rentals, permitting of fishing tournaments and special events, and facilitating access for ice fishing for the listed water bodies.
For more information, visit http://gfp.sd.gov/fishing-boating/courtruling.aspx.
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New Law Moves Pheasant Opener to Oct. 7
A new law passed by the North Dakota Legislature will result in the State Game and Fish Department to propose Oct. 7 as opening day of the 2017 pheasant hunting season, one week earlier than what the department earlier announced.
Senate Bill 2318, signed into law March 14, requires North Dakota’s pheasant season to open no later than Oct. 12.
Game and Fish Department director Terry Steinwand said the new law means the pheasant hunting season will no longer always open on the second Saturday in October, which has been the case for more than 20 years.
With the regular pheasant season opening a week earlier, Game and Fish will propose that the youth pheasant hunting season also open earlier, on Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 7.
In addition, out-of-state hunters are reminded that state law does not allow nonresidents to hunt on Game and Fish owned or managed lands during the first week of pheasant season. Therefore, Private Land Open to Sportsmen acreage and state wildlife management areas are open to hunting by resident hunters only from Oct. 7-13. Nonresidents, however, can still hunt those days on other state-owned and federal lands, or private land.
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