Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Put Garbage Where it Belongs

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds outdoor recreationists to keep it clean this summer by packing out all trash.


All garbage, including used fireworks, should be placed in a proper trash receptacle. If trash cans aren’t available, or are full, take the trash and dispose of it at home.


It is not uncommon to see garbage piling up around full trash containers. Styrofoam containers are not biodegradable, but are often found wedged in cattails, drifting or washed up on shore.


Tires, mattresses and kitchen appliances have found their way to public use areas. This illegal dumping is costly to clean up and takes a significant toll on the environment. Not only does it spoil the beauty of the land, it destroys habitat, has the potential to pollute North Dakota waters and can injure wildlife.


Littering violations should be reported by calling the Report All Poachers at 701-328-9921.

Pronghorn Survey Begins

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual aerial pronghorn survey will begin July 1 and is scheduled to be completed within two weeks.


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


The survey determines pronghorn abundance, herd demographics and fawn production. This data is used to set the number of licenses for fall hunting season.


Last year, biologists surveyed 16,664 square miles, counting and classifying 9,201 pronghorn for a population estimate of 9,845 animals. Survey results indicated the fawn-to-doe ratio was 61 fawns per 100 does, which was equal to the long-term average. The buck-to-doe ratio of 38 bucks per 100 does was above the population objective.

WMA Regulations Prohibit Fireworks, Camping Restriction Lifted for Holiday

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds citizens that possession or use of fireworks on state wildlife management areas is prohibited.


The primary objective of a wildlife management area is to enhance wildlife production, provide hunting and fishing opportunities, and offer other outdoor recreational and educational uses that are compatible with these objectives. Only activities that would not disrupt the intentions of how these areas are managed are encouraged, and a fireworks display is not compatible.


In addition, the Game and Fish Department will lift the Tuesday-Wednesday no-camping restriction for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday week, which will allow overnight camping June 30 and July 1 on those WMAs that otherwise have this two-day restriction in place.


A complete list of WMA regulations is available on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov.

Leave Baby Animals Alone, Watch for Deer

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department offers a simple message to well-intentioned humans who want to pick up and rescue what appear to be orphaned baby animals this time of year: don’t touch them. Whether it is a young fawn, duckling, cottontail rabbit or a songbird, it is better to leave them alone.


More often than not, young animals are not abandoned or deserted, and the mother is probably nearby. Young wildlife are purposely secluded by their mothers to protect them from predators.


Anytime a young wild animal has human contact its chance for survival decreases significantly. It’s illegal to take wild animals home, and captive animals later returned to the wild will struggle to survive because they do not possess learned survival skills.


The only time a baby animal should be picked up is if it is in an unnatural situation, such as a young songbird found on a doorstep. In that case, the young bird could be moved to the closest suitable habitat.


Citizens should also steer clear of adult wildlife, such as deer or moose that might wander into urban areas. Crowding stresses animals and this can lead to a potentially dangerous situation.


In addition, motorists are reminded to watch for deer along roadways. During the next several weeks young animals are dispersing from their home ranges, and with deer more active during this time, the potential for car‑deer collisions increases.

Walleye Tagging Studies

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department continues to conduct walleye tagging studies across the state.


At Lake Sakakawea, the state’s largest fishery, Department fisheries biologists are in the second year of a four-year walleye tagging study. The goal on Sakakawea is to tag about 3,000 walleyes per year, a target fisheries biologists more than met this year when they fit 3,188 fish with metal jaw tags.


Another project was conducted at Lake Josephine in Kidder County where nearly 500 walleye were tagged.


In both waters, the respective tagging studies will provide Department fisheries biologists with several pieces of information, including angling mortality, that will help to properly manage the fisheries and maintain good fishing into the future.


Anglers can help both tagging studies by reporting any tagged fish they catch on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, or by calling 701-328-6300.

Earth Day Patch Contest Winners Announced

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has announced the winners of this year’s Earth Day patch contest.


Winners in the three age categories were Kenzley Hausauer of Halliday (6-9), Allison Gudmundson of Mountain (10-13), and Rowan Bushnell of Cartwright (14-18). Gudmundson’s design was chosen as the contest winner.


Each year, the Game and Fish Department sponsors a contest to celebrate Earth Day, recognized April 22, for students ages 6-18 to design a North Dakota Earth Day Patch. Groups participating in cleaning up publicly owned or managed lands in April and May receive a specifically designed conservation patch.


This year’s cleanup projects were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

PLOTS Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is initiating a study this week to get hunter and landowner opinions on the agency’s Private Land Open to Sportsmen program.

A company called Responsive Management is conducting the study on behalf of Game and Fish.

Licensed hunters, and landowners enrolled in the PLOTS program, may receive a phone call from Responsive Management asking for participation in a survey about hunting PLOTS, or having land enrolled in PLOTS in North Dakota. Selection for participation in the study is random, to maintain a scientifically valid study.

If you receive a call, Game and Fish encourages participation in the study. Answers are kept confidential and will never be associated with a name or license in any way.

If you have any questions about the study, contact Kevin Kading, Game and Fish private land section supervisor, at kkading@nd.gov.

Bighorn Sheep Population Up from Last Year

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2019 bighorn sheep survey, completed by recounting lambs in March, revealed a minimum of 290 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, up 2 percent from 2018 and 3 percent above the five-year average.

Altogether, biologists counted 77 rams, 162 ewes and 51 lambs. Not included are approximately 30 bighorn sheep in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and 30 bighorns recently translocated to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann was pleased to see another increase in the survey, following a decline in 2017.

“The increase in the 2019 count reflects lessening effects of bacterial pneumonia that was detected in 2014,” Wiedmann said.

The northern badlands population increased 12 percent from 2018 and was the highest count on record. The southern badlands population declined again to the lowest level since 1999.

“The total count of adult rams unfortunately declined for a fourth consecutive year in 2019, but adult ewes remained near record numbers,” Wiedmann said. “Most encouraging was the significant increase in the lamb count and recruitment rate following record lows in 2016 and 2017.”

Game and Fish Department biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer, and then recount lambs the following March, as they approach one year of age, to determine recruitment.

“Fortunately, annual survival rates of adult bighorns are very high and similar to those prior to the die-off, and lamb survival continues to improve, which could indicate the population is becoming somewhat resilient to the deadly pathogens first observed in 2014,” Wiedmann said. “The deadly pathogen, Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, has not been detected the last two years in most of the northern herds via annual disease testing and none are currently showing symptoms of pneumonia. However, the next few years will be important in determining if the state’s population shows signs of recovering from the disease outbreak, or if the pathogens are likely to persist and cause a long-term population decline.”

Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian Dr. Charlie Bahnson said that four of the 25 adult bighorns tested for the deadly pathogens last winter were positive.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2020, unless there is a recurrence of significant adult mortality from bacterial pneumonia. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after the summer population survey is completed.

Game and Fish issued five licenses in 2019 and all hunters were successful in harvesting a ram.

Missouri River System Boat Ramp Status

Anglers looking to enjoy the nice weather this weekend by fishing open water on the Missouri River System can check the status of boat ramps at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

Game and Fish will post ramp status updates as they occur.

Department personnel encourage anglers to wait their turn at boat ramps, practice social distancing and follow other guidelines for minimizing the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus.