Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Spring Turkey Season Set

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is offering 6,230 wild turkey licenses for the 2020 spring hunting season, 205 more than last year.

Seven of the 22 hunting units have more spring licenses than in 2019, five have fewer and nine remain the same. Unit 21 (Hettinger and Adams counties) is again closed in 2020 due to lack of turkeys in the unit.

Spring turkey applicants can apply online at the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Applications can also be submitted by calling 800-406-6409.

The deadline for applying is Feb. 12.

Successful spring turkey applicants must purchase a 2020-21 hunting license, as last year’s 2019-20 licenses expire March 31. In addition to the spring turkey license, hunters must have a general game and habitat license. Also, hunters ages 16 and older must possess a small game license, or combination license. These required licenses must be purchased in advance of the successful applicant receiving the turkey license.

First-time spring turkey hunters ages 15 or younger are eligible to receive one spring license valid for any open unit. To be eligible, the youth hunter must be 15 or younger on opening day of spring turkey season and have never received a spring turkey license in North Dakota.

Spring turkey licenses are available only to North Dakota residents. Per legislation, an additional four spring wild turkey licenses are available to the Outdoor Adventure Foundation and three to the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The spring turkey season opens April 11 and continues through May 17.

Watchable Wildlife Checkoff on State Tax Form

North Dakota citizens with an interest in supporting wildlife conservation programs are reminded to look for the Watchable Wildlife checkoff on the state tax form.

The state income tax form gives wildlife enthusiasts an opportunity to support nongame wildlife like songbirds and birds of prey, while at the same time contributing to programs that help everyone enjoy all wildlife.

The checkoff – whether you are receiving a refund or having to pay in – is an easy way to voluntarily contribute to sustain this long‑standing program. In addition, direct donations to the program are accepted any time of year.

To learn more about Watchable Wildlife program activities, visit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 90,000 Canada geese in the state.

Andy Dinges, Department migratory game bird biologist, said North Dakota experienced relatively mild weather in fall and early winter, but a few harsh cold fronts in early November and mid-December pushed some birds south for winter.

“Particularly, the cold snap we experienced during the first and second weeks of November moved a lot of birds south of us earlier than normal and we struggled to build up great numbers after this,” Dinges said.

During the recent survey, an estimated 50,000 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 17,500 were observed on Lake Sakakawea, which still had substantial open water on the lower portion of the lake. In addition, about 22,500 Canada geese were observed on Nelson Lake in Oliver County.

Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 4,200 mallards were tallied statewide, most of which were recorded on Nelson Lake.

Lake Sakakawea officially iced-over Jan. 11, just days after the aerial survey was completed.

The 10-year average (2010-19) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 100,500 Canada geese and 22,000 mallards.

All states participate in the midwinter survey during the same time frame, to reduce the possibility of counting birds more than once.

Remove Gear from WMAs

Hunters are reminded that tree stands, blinds, steps and other personal items such as cameras, must be removed from all wildlife management areas by Jan. 31.

Items not removed by Jan. 31 are considered abandoned property and are subject to removal and confiscation by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Deer Test Positive for CWD

Eight deer taken during the 2019 North Dakota deer gun season tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

All were antlered deer taken from areas previously known to have CWD – six from unit 3F2 and two from 3A1. Bahnson said six of the eight were mule deer, with two whitetails from unit 3F2. CWD was not detected in any deer harvested in the eastern portion of the state where hunter-harvested surveillance was conducted last fall. In addition, no elk or moose tested positive.

“Only about 15% of hunters submit heads for testing in units where CWD has been found, so the infection rate is more meaningful than the raw number of positive animals found,” Bahnson said. “Approximately 3% of harvested mule deer were infected with CWD in unit 3F2, and roughly 2% in unit 3A1. Our infection rate in whitetails in 3F2 was about 1%.

“Overall,” he continued, “we could probably live with these current infection rates long-term, but they suggest an upward trend and we’ve certainly seen an expansion in the known distribution of the disease. We need to continue to try to limit the spread within our herds as best as we can. CWD is a fatal disease of deer, moose and elk that can cause long-term population declines if left unchecked.”

Bahnson said the eight positive deer put the total at 11 detected since Sept 1. As previously reported, two mule deer taken in September tested positive for CWD – one was harvested during the archery season from deer gun unit 4B and one during the youth season in unit 3A1. CWD was also detected in a white-tailed deer from unit 3F2 that was euthanized in December following a report from the public that it appeared sick and was displaying erratic behavior.

Game and Fish will use its 2019 surveillance data to guide its CWD management strategy moving forward. More information about CWD can be found at the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov/cwd.

 

CREP Enrollment Open

Landowners in southwestern North Dakota are again able to enroll in the state Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened a new signup period in early December.

 

In addition, USDA also announced an open signup for the general Conservation Reserve Program, which is open until Feb. 29.

 

The North Dakota Riparian Project CREP, first offered in spring 2017, allows states to identify resource concerns and design custom-built projects along riparian areas.

“Over a 10-year period, approximately $19 million in federal funds from the USDA Farm Service Agency can be used to provide annual rental, incentive and cost-share payments for filter strips, riparian buffers, or pollinator and honeybee habitat,” according to Kevin Kading, private land section supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

 

The state will contribute more than $4.3 million, which is funded from the Game and Fish Private Land Open To Sportsmen program, and the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund.

 

“We’ve worked a long time developing these projects with USDA, and working with other partners and stakeholders,” Kading said. “We feel these are good options for landowners to address a resource concern, and also open up some quality habitat for hunters.”

 

Landowners interested in CREP can enroll acres in portions of Adams, Billings, Bowman, Burleigh, Dunn, Emmons, Grant, Golden Valley, Hettinger, McKenzie, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sioux, Slope and Stark counties. The statewide enrollment cap for this program is 20,000 acres.

 

Expired, or expiring CRP is not eligible for the North Dakota Riparian Project CREP at this time, Kading said. Land offered must meet FSA cropping history requirements and be located within the project boundary.

 

There is no minimum acreage requirement for enrolling land into CREP, but any land enrolled in a CREP contract with USDA must also be enrolled in the Game and Fish PLOTS program. Kading said landowners don’t have to allow public access to their entire property, but the PLOTS tract must be at least 40 acres in size.

Landowners will receive payments for allowing walk-in hunting access, and are eligible for additional habitat enhancements, incentives and cost-share.

 

For information regarding the project, landowners should contact a local Game and Fish private land biologist or their local county USDA service center.

Keep Fish Caught in Deep Water

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists are encouraging ice anglers to keep fish caught from deep waters.

 

Catch-and-release fishing, no matter the time of year, is discouraged for fish caught in 30 feet or more of water because fish reeled in from those depths have a greater chance of dying if released.

 

Fish caught in deep water won’t likely survive because of the extreme change in water pressure, which causes the swim bladder to expand. Fish can no longer control their balance in the water column when this happens. Other internal injuries, such as rupturing of organs and bleeding, are also likely for fish caught from deep waters.

 

Devils Lake ice anglers commonly catch yellow perch in 30-45 feet of water during the winter months. This practice also translates to other deep water bodies around the state.

 

Game and Fish recommends that anglers targeting fish in deeper water make the commitment to keep what they catch. And once they reach their limit, anglers should stop fishing at that depth to avoid killing more than their limit of fish.

CREP Enrollment Open

Landowners in southwestern North Dakota are again able to enroll in the state Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened a new signup period in early December.

 

In addition, USDA also announced an open signup for the general Conservation Reserve Program, which is open until Feb. 29.

 

The North Dakota Riparian Project CREP, first offered in spring 2017, allows states to identify resource concerns and design custom-built projects along riparian areas.

“Over a 10-year period, approximately $19 million in federal funds from the USDA Farm Service Agency can be used to provide annual rental, incentive and cost-share payments for filter strips, riparian buffers, or pollinator and honeybee habitat,” according to Kevin Kading, private land section supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

 

The state will contribute more than $4.3 million, which is funded from the Game and Fish Private Land Open To Sportsmen program, and the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund.

 

“We’ve worked a long time developing these projects with USDA, and working with other partners and stakeholders,” Kading said. “We feel these are good options for landowners to address a resource concern, and also open up some quality habitat for hunters.”

 

Landowners interested in CREP can enroll acres in portions of Adams, Billings, Bowman, Burleigh, Dunn, Emmons, Grant, Golden Valley, Hettinger, McKenzie, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sioux, Slope and Stark counties. The statewide enrollment cap for this program is 20,000 acres.

 

Expired, or expiring CRP is not eligible for the North Dakota Riparian Project CREP at this time, Kading said. Land offered must meet FSA cropping history requirements and be located within the project boundary.

 

There is no minimum acreage requirement for enrolling land into CREP, but any land enrolled in a CREP contract with USDA must also be enrolled in the Game and Fish PLOTS program. Kading said landowners don’t have to allow public access to their entire property, but the PLOTS tract must be at least 40 acres in size.

Landowners will receive payments for allowing walk-in hunting access, and are eligible for additional habitat enhancements, incentives and cost-share.

 

For information regarding the project, landowners should contact a local Game and Fish private land biologist or their local county USDA service center.

Winter Anglers Reminded to Clean Up Ice

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds winter anglers to clean up the ice after fishing. This not only applies to trash, but fish as well.

 

It is not only unsightly, but it is illegal to leave fish, including minnows used for bait, behind on the ice. According to state fishing regulations, when a fish is caught, anglers must either immediately release the fish back into the water unharmed, or reduce them to their daily possession.

 

It is common practice for some anglers to fillet fish on the ice, which is allowed, as long as fish entrails and other parts are removed from the ice and properly disposed of at home.

 

In addition, all trash, including aluminum cans, cigarette butts and Styrofoam containers, must be packed out and taken home.