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Buffaloberry Patch

Article By 
Greg Freeman

Deer Season Set

North Dakota’s 2013 deer season is set, with 59,500 licenses available to hunters this fall, 5,800 fewer than last year and the lowest since 1983.

Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the State Game and Fish Department, said after a significant reduction in gun licenses in 2012, harvest and survey data revealed deer populations are still below management objectives in most units.

“The statewide hunter success rate in 2012 was 63 percent, which is higher than in 2011 (52 percent), but is still lower than our goal of 70 percent,” Kreil said. “The decrease of licenses in 2013 is necessary to allow deer populations to increase toward management goals.”

Winter aerial surveys showed deer numbers were down from 2011 levels in the northern and eastern portions of the state, specifically units 1, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2K1, 2K2, and 3A1. Kreil said although deer are still below management objectives in 2A, 2F1 and 2F2, aerial surveys showed numbers were slightly above levels recorded in 2011 or 2012.

Deer Season

“The winter of 2012-13 was severe in the northern and eastern portions of the state, which will impede population recovery in those areas,” Kreil said. “Furthermore, high quality deer habitat continues to be lost statewide and will limit the potential for population recovery.”

Currently, all hunting units in the state are below management goals except in 3E2, 3F1, 3F2 and 4F.

Based on 2012 populations and harvest data, mule deer licenses in the badlands will decrease slightly this year. No antlerless mule deer licenses are available for the 2013 deer season in units 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F. This restriction applies to regular gun, resident and nonresident any-deer bow, gratis and youth licenses.

Hunters are able to draw one license for the deer gun season and one for the muzzleloader season, and purchase an archery license. Like last year, there is no concurrent season and a hunter cannot receive more than one license for the deer gun season.

The number of licenses available for 2013 is 1,150 antlered mule deer, a decrease of 50 mule deer licenses from last year; 1,166 for muzzleloader, down 116 from last year; and 115 restricted youth antlered mule deer, a decrease of five from last year.

North Dakota’s 2013 deer gun season opens November 8 at noon and continues through November 24. Online applications for the regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader, and resident gratis and nonresident landowner seasons are available through the Game and Fish Department’s website at Paper applications are also available at vendors throughout the state. The deadline for applying is June 5.

Bowhunters should note that both resident and nonresident archery licenses this year are available only through the department’s Bismarck office or website, or by calling (800) 406-6409. Archery tags will not be sold over the counter at license vendor locations in 2013.

Gratis and nonresident landowner applicants will want to take note of a new law passed recently by the state legislature. HB 1131 reduces the number of acres required to qualify from 160 to 150. In addition, gratis applications received on or before the regular deer gun lottery application deadline (June 5) will be issued any legal deer license. Applications received after the deadline will be issued based on licenses remaining after the lottery – generally only antlerless licenses remain.

HB 1131 also allows residents who turn age 12 in 2013 to receive an antlerless white-tailed deer license, and allows an individual who turns 14 this year to receive one deer license valid for the youth deer season. Previously, a young hunter had to turn the appropriate age prior to the end of the respective big game season.

Total deer licenses are determined by harvest rates, aerial surveys, deer-vehicle collision reports, depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and Department field staff.


General CRP Signup: Cost Share Assistance and Additional Opportunities With the North Dakota Game and Fish Department


Producers interested in submitting bids to enroll land in Conservation Reserve Program acres have from May 20 through June 14. Applications received during the CRP signup period will be ranked against others according to the Environmental Benefit Index.

Kevin Kading, North Dakota Game and Fish Department private land section leader, said there are some EBI factors that producers can influence. Game and Fish Department private land biologists and other conservation partners such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever can help producers find the best possible combination of factors that will positively influence their EBI score, which may increase their likelihood of being accepted into the program.


The Game and Fish Department offers cost-share assistance and additional incentives if producers enroll their CRP into the Department’s Private Land Open To Sportsmen program to allow walk-in access for hunting.

There is something new for PLOTS this year; Game and Fish will make arrangements with contractors to assist producers with land preparation, grass seeding and CRP management. This service is offered for producers who enroll CRP in PLOTS in Dickey, Ransom, Sargent, LaMoure, Burleigh, Emmons, McLean, Sheridan, Stark, Hettinger and Adams counties.

Producers should contact the following biologists for more information about the general signup and opportunities with the Department’s PLOTS program. A series of short videos with tips and advice on how producers can maximize their CRP offer, and information about PLOTS cost-share and grass seeding assistance can also be found on the Department’s website at


Ty Dressler, Dickinson – (701) 227-7431 (Stark, Hettinger, Adams, Slope, Bowman); Levi Jacobson, Bismarck – (701) 527-3764 (Burleigh, Emmons, Kidder, Oliver); Nate Harling, Devils Lake – (701) 662-3617 (Bottineau, Rolette, Towner, Cavalier, Ramsey, Pembina, Walsh, Grand Forks, Nelson); Todd Buckley, Williston – (701) 774-4320 (Divide, Burke, Williams, Mountrail, McKenzie); Terry Oswald, Jr., Lonetree – (701) 324-2211 (Sheridan, Wells, Eddy, Foster, Benson, Pierce); Renae Heinle, Jamestown – (701) 253-6480 (Stutsman, Barnes, Lamoure, Dickey, Sargent, Griggs, Cass, Richland, Ransom, Steele, Traill, McIntosh, Logan); Ryan Huber, Riverdale – (701) 654-7475 (McLean, Mercer, McHenry, Ward, Renville); Todd Gallion, Lake Ilo NWR – (701) 548-8110 (Dunn, Billings, Golden Valley);  and Jon Roaldson, Bismarck – (701) 328-6308 (Grant, Morton and Sioux).


Rachel Bush, Jamestown – (701) 252-2521 ext. 129 (Stutsman, Barnes, Lamoure); Matthew Flintrop, Dickinson – (701) 225-3811 ext. 118 (Stark, Hettinger, Billings and other western counties); Matt Olson, Forman – (701) 724-3247 ext. 114 (Sargent, Richland, Ransom, Dickey); Jaden Honeyman, Hettinger – (701) 567-2661 ext. 113 (Adams, Bowman, Slope and other western counties); and Andrew Ahrens, Devils Lake – (701) 662-7967 (Ramsey, Benson, Nelson).


Matthew Shappell, Napoleon – (701) 754-2234 ext. 3 (Emmons, McIntosh, Logan, Kidder); and Jacob Oster, Turtle Lake – (701) 448-2377 (McLean, Burleigh, Sheridan).


MRS Walleye Tagging Study Underway

Walleye Tagged

A multi-year walleye tagging study that will eventually include thousands of fish 12 inches and longer was initiated on the Missouri River earlier this spring.

The study area is big, running from Garrison Dam in central North Dakota downstream to Lake Oahe Dam in South Dakota. It’s being conducted by biologists and researchers from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and South Dakota State University.

The study, which falls on the heels of the 2011 flood and a major decline in the forage base, is designed to assess walleye movements, mortality and what proportion of the walleye population is harvested annually by anglers.


“The goal is to tag 10,000 walleye in the study area in the Dakotas per year,” said Scott Gangl, Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader. “Up to 4,000 of those fish will be tagged and released annually in the Missouri River and upper Lake Oahe in North Dakota.”

The four-year study will target adult walleye and each will be fitted with a metal jaw tag stamped with a unique number to identify the fish, and a phone number to report the tag. “Anglers should treat tagged fish like any other fish they catch,” Gangl said. “If they would normally harvest that fish, they should harvest it. If they would typically release it, they should release it. Anglers practicing catch-and-release can write the tag number down and report it, leaving the tag in the fish when released.”

Anglers can report tags by calling the phone number found on tags, which, anglers should note, is a South Dakota phone number. Tag information can also be reported on the Game and Fish Department’s website,, tag reporting page or by calling (701) 328-6300.

“When an angler does report a tag, we ask for the date the fish was caught, where it was caught, was the fish harvested or released, tag number and length and weight of the fish,” Gangl said. “An angler who reports a tagged fish, along with their contact information, will be sent a letter providing some history on the fish, such as when and where it was tagged, how big it was when tagged and so on.”

Gangl said a small portion of the tags, just 5 percent, will offer a reward to anglers to encourage them to turn them in. These tags will be clearly marked “Reward.”

Reward tags need to be turned in to Game and Fish offices in Riverdale and Bismarck, or to a Game, Fish and Parks office in South Dakota.


Bighorns Show Record Lamb Recruitment

Bighorn Sheep

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s spring bighorn sheep survey revealed a minimum of 297 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota. The 2012 count was second highest on record and 5 percent above last year’s survey.

In total, biologists counted 87 rams, 156 ewes and a record 54 lambs. Not included are approximately 30 bighorn sheep in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.


Brett Wiedmann, Department big game biologist, said the northern badlands population was the highest on record, but the southern badlands herds declined slightly.

“Although adult rams and ewes were virtually unchanged from 2011, we were very pleased to see a record number of lambs recruited into the population, as well as a record recruitment rate of 38 percent,” Wiedmann said. “Nearly all of the lambs we counted during last summer’s survey survived the winter.”

Game and Fish Department biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer and then recount lambs the following March to determine recruitment.

A bumper crop of lambs is indicative of a healthy population. However, Wiedmann added that this year’s lamb numbers likely won’t be reflected in increased hunting licenses for several years, as the total number of rams remains much lower than 2008, and the current age structure of rams is also much younger than what Game and Fish biologists would like to see.

“Consequently, we’ll likely have to continue to be conservative with hunting pressure for a few years, but the future certainly looks promising,” Wiedmann said. “Adult mortality was also low last winter, so we expect another good crop of lambs this spring.”

Game and Fish has issued four bighorn sheep licenses for 2013, the same as 2012.


Bighorn Auction License Breaks Record

North Dakota’s 2013 bighorn sheep auction license sold for a record $75,000 at the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation annual meeting in Minnesota. The previous high was $50,000 in 2007.

In addition, a 5 percent conservation fee for all auction licenses generated an additional $3,750 from the sale of North Dakota’s license.

North Dakota’s auction license allows the winning bidder to pursue a North Dakota bighorn on a self-guided hunt.

Auction license proceeds are used to enhance bighorn sheep management in North Dakota.


Coming in June


There are some dates to remember in June. North Dakota anglers are reminded of the free fishing weekend June 1-2.

Resident anglers that weekend may fish without a license, except for paddlefish. All other fishing regulations apply.

Also, the application deadline for the 2013 deer gun and muzzleloader season is June 5. Applicants can access the Game and Fish Department’s website at to submit a lottery application online, or to print an application for mailing. Paper applications will also be available at Game and Fish offices, county auditors and license vendors. You can also apply by calling (800) 406-6409.



Red, Bois de Sioux River Anglers

Anglers fishing from shore along the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers are reminded of a licensing requirement that went into effect last year.

Anglers fishing from shore on the North Dakota side of the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers must have a valid North Dakota fishing license. Prior to 2012, either a North Dakota or Minnesota license was allowed.

However, anglers fishing from a boat or on the ice can possess either a valid North Dakota or Minnesota fishing license. Anglers should refer to the 2012-14 North Dakota Fishing Guide for additional information.


James River Bait Restrictions

Anglers and bait vendors should be aware of a regulation that prohibits taking of minnows or other aquatic bait from portions of Pipestem Creek and the James River.

Because record high flows in the James River in 2011 facilitated the movement of silver carp upstream into North Dakota, it is illegal to take live bait from all of Pipestem Creek below Pipestem Dam, and from the James River between the Jamestown Dam and the South Dakota border, including any tributaries up to the first vehicular bridge or crossing.

The 2012-14 fishing proclamation states “no live bait may be taken from any water body in North Dakota that is infested with aquatic nuisance species.” Silver carp is an aquatic nuisance species that can out-compete native and other game fish in large river systems.


Walleye Restriction in some Southeast Lakes

Anglers fishing in southeastern North Dakota are reminded of a length requirement when fishing for walleye.

The 2012-14 fishing proclamation includes a 14-inch minimum walleye length restriction on six lakes in southeastern North Dakota – Alkali Lake, Buffalo Lake and Tosse Slough in Sargent County; and Lake Elsie, Lueck Lake and West Moran Lake in Richland County. 

Anglers should refer to the 2012-14 North Dakota Fishing Guide for all fishing regulations.


NASP State Tournament Results


More than 360 archers competed in the North Dakota National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament in Bismarck.

Jeff Long, Game and Fish Department NASP coordinator, said the event held in April continues to grow every year. “This year’s turnout was outstanding, especially considering we were on the verge of a nasty storm that hit statewide,” Long said, while noting the number of participants (362) was up 9 percent from last year.

The high school (grades 9-12) state championship team was from Griggs County Central, the middle school (grades 7-8) champs were from Hankinson and taking top honors in the elementary school (grades 4-6) division was Barnes County North.


Overall male and female winners were Spencer Brockman of North Sargent and Lauren Moser of Medina.

The top three place winners in each division were:

High school boys – Brockman; James Nadeau, Dunseith; and Alex Irlmeier, Medina.

High school girls – Lisa Buckhaus, Hankinson; Hunter Schroeder, Dunseith; and Ashley Brockman, North Sargent.

Middle school boys – Race Kath, Hankinson; Logan Kensok, Griggs County Central; and Eric Horner, St. Mary’s.

Middle school girls – Moser; Kate Loewen, Hankinson; and Hannah Willson, Barnes County North.

Elementary boys – Dawson McKeever, North Sargent; Ryan Zastoupil, Killdeer; and Andrew Lehman, Hankinson.

Elementary girls – Desi Parsons, Griggs County Central; Hope Willson, Barnes County North; and Alicia Biewer, Hankinson.


Volunteers Recognized


Volunteer instructors for North Dakota’s conservation education program were recognized earlier this year at the annual banquet held in Bismarck.

Instructor of the year was Rhonda Ferguson of Jamestown. Robert Haglund, Garrison, was honored for 20 years of service.

Ten-year service awards were presented to Jill Christensen, Valley City; John Gorman, Larimore; Jeff Kapaun, Valley City; Kathy King, Bismarck; Kevin Manock, Wahpeton; and Janice Nelsen, Beulah.



Earth Day Project

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is once again celebrating Earth Day by sponsoring clean-up days on public-owned or managed lands throughout April and May.

Each member of a school, Girl Scout, Boy Scout, 4-H club or youth organization who participates in cleaning up public lands during these two months will receive a specifically designed conservation patch.

Earth Day Logos

Last winter the Game and Fish Department sponsored a contest for students ages 6-18 to design a North Dakota Earth Day patch. Winners receiving a pair of 8x40 binoculars in the three age categories were Lindsy Dawson of Bismarck (6-9), Lauren Foley of Bismarck (10-13), and Megan Griffin of Bismarck (14-18). Dawson’s design was chosen the contest winner, and will be used on this year’s Earth Day patch.

Groups participating in the Earth Day project are encouraged to take the following precautions to ensure safety: keep young people away from highways, lakes and rivers; and only allow older participants to pick up broken glass.

Interested participants are asked to contact Pat Lothspeich, Department outreach biologist, at (701) 328-6332 to receive a reporting form for their project.