The challenge this time of year in North Dakota is deciding which outdoor activity to pursue.
Fishing has been nothing short of phenomenal this past summer and it’s fully expected to continue this fall and winter. While upland game populations aren’t looking as good as we’d like to see, there are still plenty of opportunities.
My point is that there are many hunting and fishing opportunities available.
I’ve always said that hunting or fishing involve a minimum of two issues – having the resource and having access to that resource. There has been some concern voiced on the access issue from the PLOTS perspective. We’ve seen a reduction in PLOTS acres this year, due largely to the reduction in Conservation Reserve Program acres across the state.
The loss of CRP acres in North Dakota is certainly a concern and we’re watching evolving farm bill discussions closely to assess which direction lawmakers are going to take, while at the same time providing input where we can to positively influence wildlife populations and access.
Game and Fish Department private land staff has been working on ways to increase acreage in the program. Their goal is to not simply increase access, but also add quality habitat to produce the birds and animals we pursue. I have total confidence they will develop new and innovative programs to accomplish that. They’ve always done so in the past.
The other portion of the equation is having the habitat to produce the resource. As mentioned, losing CRP is undoubtedly affecting the number of upland game birds, deer and other wildlife we have on the landscape. But other factors also influence wildlife populations, including continued loss of native grasslands, weather and diseases.
In this issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS, Department staff address the issue of epizootic hemorrhagic disease and its negative influence on the state’s white-tailed deer population. This disease occurs almost every year in North Dakota, but most years the impact is minimal. Of course, there are years when the impact is more severe. The point is that there is rarely just a single factor that determines the status of North Dakota’s wildlife populations.
I never get to hunt or fish as much as I’d like, but take my opportunities as they come. I’m not really choosy on what I hunt or fish for, but I certainly have my preferences and they sometimes change on an annual basis. As of this writing, I’ve been out sharp-tailed grouse hunting three times and the survey reports were certainly correct in the areas I’ve frequented. Department biologists stated sharp-tailed grouse were down about 50 percent and that certainly appears to be true. I’ve had a tough time finding birds, but in my wanderings I’ve certainly seen more pheasants than expected. It’s now going to be a waiting game to see if they’re still hanging around come pheasant opener.
Remember, surveys are averages for areas of the state and statewide. As our biologists always say, some areas will be lower and some localized areas will be higher. Birds are out there, you just have to get out and find them.
Over time, our terrestrial resources have been more abundant, but they’ve also been lower. At Game and Fish we will continue to work toward higher wildlife populations across the state. The bottom line is that we have many fishing and hunting opportunities, and we encourage you to pursue them with a kid, family member, neighbor or friend. So get out and enjoy what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful times of the year in the great North Dakota outdoors.