Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Deer Gratis Application Online

Landowners who are interested in a 2020 deer gratis license can start the online-only application process now by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. The deadline for applying is June 3.

The general deer and muzzleloader lottery applications will be available online in early May, also with a deadline of June 3.

Since 2018 the Game and Fish Department has opened deer gratis applications a month earlier than prior years to allow additional time for online applications for landowners who are busy with spring farm and ranch activities.

Gratis applicants who have previously applied online will automatically have their land description carried forward to this year’s application. However, any changes with land descriptions from last year’s application must be made prior to submitting the 2020 application.

Applications must be submitted online using a computer or smartphone.  License vendors are unable to process deer gratis applications.

Spring Mule Deer Survey Begins April 1

The state Game and Fish Department’s annual spring aerial mule deer survey is set to begin April 1 in western North Dakota. Weather permitting, the survey takes about two weeks to complete.

 

During the survey period, people could notice low-flying small airplanes over some parts of the badlands.

 

Game and Fish biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 badlands study areas since the 1950s. The purpose of the survey is to determine a population index to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands.

Youth Grant Program Applications Due in April

Wildlife, shooting, fraternal and nonprofit civic organizations are urged to submit an application for the Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters program, a North Dakota Game and Fish Department grant program developed to assist recruitment of the next generation of hunters and shooters.

 

The maximum grant allowed is $3,000. The program currently helps fund approximately 40 club and organizational events and projects each year, with an average grant of $1,550.

 

Grant funds help cover event expenses, including promotional printing; event memorabilia such as shirts, caps or vests; ammunition and targets, and eye and ear protection.

 

Past funding has enabled groups to conduct youth pheasant and waterfowl hunts, or sponsor trap and other shooting events, including archery and rifle shooting. Game and Fish has a separate grant program that supports new high school trapshooting teams.
Any club or organization interested in conducting a youth hunting or shooting event can get more information, including a grant application, from the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, or by contacting R3 coordinator Brian Schaffer at 701-328-6312.

 

The deadline to apply for a 2020 grant is April 10.

Open Fires Banned on Oahe WMA, Surrounding Areas

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is prohibiting open burning this spring on public property it manages south of Bismarck and Mandan, as a means to reduce potential for wildfires on a heavily wooded recreation area along the Missouri River.

Bill Haase, wildlife resource management supervisor, said all open burning, including campfires, is banned until further notice on the Oahe Wildlife Management Area along both sides of the Missouri River. While the use of portable grills is allowed, extreme caution is advised due to the heavily vegetated area.

Haase said these woodlands are prone to wildfires prior to spring green-up. Mild temperatures and a high fuel load in the river bottoms are a cause for concern, he said, in addition to being a high use area for anglers, campers and other outdoor recreationists.

In addition to Oahe WMA, surrounding areas included in the open burn ban include Kimball Bottoms and Maclean Bottoms managed by Bismarck Parks and Recreation District, Desert Off Road Vehicle Area managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Graner Park managed by Morton County Parks.

Oahe WMA covers more than 16,000 acres along Lake Oahe south of Bismarck-Mandan, in portions of Burleigh, Emmons, and Morton counties. Burning restriction signs are posted at all entrances to the WMA.

Hunters Cautioned of Ground Conditions

The spring snow goose migration is in full swing, and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking hunters to be wary of muddy roads and saturated ground conditions when traveling to and from hunting locations.

Game and Fish Department wildlife chief Jeb Williams said goose hunters are encouraged to maintain positive landowner/hunter relations and not drive on soft, muddy roads and trails, and to seek landowner permission before attempting any off-road travel on private land.

The spring light goose conservation order runs through May 10.

Whooping cranes are in the midst of their spring migration and sightings will increase as they make their way into and through North Dakota over the next several weeks. Anyone seeing these endangered birds as they move through the state is asked to report sightings so the birds can be tracked.

 

The whooping cranes that do make their way through North Dakota each spring are part of a population of about 500 birds that are on their way from their wintering grounds at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, a distance of about 2,500 miles.

 

Whoopers stand about five feet tall and have a wingspan of about seven feet from tip to tip. They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of 2-3 birds, and may be associated with sandhill cranes.

 

Other white birds such as snow geese, swans and egrets are often mistaken for whooping cranes. The most common misidentification is pelicans, because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.

 

Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location, and the birds’ activity. Observers should also look closely for and report colored bands which may occur on one or both legs. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.

 

Whooping crane sightings should be reported to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, 701-848-2466, or Audubon, 701-442-5474, national wildlife refuges; the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, 701-328-6300, or to local game wardens across the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers, and identify times and migration routes.

NASP Tournament Canceled

Following the announced week-long closure of North Dakota’s K-12 schools, the National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament scheduled for this weekend in Minot has been canceled due to public health concerns.

With an estimated 1,000 archers in grades 4-12 expected to convene Friday, March 20 at the State Fair Center, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is following the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that groups cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more.

2020-21 Licenses Needed April 1

North Dakota anglers, trappers and hunters are reminded that new licenses for the 2020-21 season are required starting April 1.

 

Licenses can be purchased online by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Once the license is processed, users will have the option to print a hard copy and/or download the license to a smart phone or mobile device, which is helpful when asked to show proof of license while hunting or fishing in rural areas that lack cellular service.

 

Licenses can also be purchased at more than 140 vendor locations throughout the state, or by calling 800-406-6409. The 2020-21 small game, fishing and furbearer licenses are effective April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

 

In addition, Senate Bill 2293, passed by the 2019 state legislature, created an aquatic nuisance species program fund in the state treasury. Along with an ANS fee on motorized watercraft that went into effect Jan. 1, this state law also establishes a $2 surcharge on each resident fishing license and combination license, except for the resident 65years of age or older license, permanently or totally disabled license, or a disabled veteran license; and establishes a $3 surcharge on each nonresident fishing and each nonresident waterfowl license. The ANS surcharge on licenses is in effect with the 2020-21 license.