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NDG&F September 28th Newsletter


Hunting from Duck Boat Requires Safety

Waterfowlers hunting from boats are encouraged to wear properly-fitted life jackets while on the water.

Hunting jackets with life jackets already built in are light and comfortable to wear. In addition, wearing a life jacket will not only keep the overboard hunter afloat, but also slow the loss of critical body heat caused by exposure to cold water.

Capsizing and falling overboard from small boats are the most common types of fatal boating accidents for hunters.

Eight people have drowned in state waters since 1998 while hunting from a boat, and none were wearing life jackets.

Waterfowl Hunters Reminded of ANS Regulations

Waterfowl hunters are reminded to do their part in preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species into or within North Dakota.

Waterfowl hunters must remove plants and plant fragments from decoys, strings and anchors; remove plants seeds and plant fragments from waders and other equipment before leaving hunting areas; remove all water from decoys, boats, motors, trailers and other watercraft; and remove all aquatic plants from boats and trailers before leaving a marsh or lake. In addition, hunters are encouraged to brush their hunting dogs free of mud and seeds.

Cattails and bulrushes may be transported as camouflage on boats. All other aquatic vegetation must be cleaned from boats prior to transportation into or within North Dakota.

ANS information, including regulations, is available by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

PLOTS Regulations

Out-of-state hunters are reminded that state law does not allow nonresidents to hunt on North Dakota Game and Fish Department owned or managed lands during the first week of pheasant season.

Private Land Open to Sportsmen acreage and state wildlife management areas are open to hunting by resident hunters only from Oct. 10-16. Nonresidents, however, can still hunt those days on other state-owned and federal lands, or private land.

The law applies to all small game, waterfowl, furbearer and big game hunting on PLOTS and state wildlife management areas during the first seven days of the pheasant season. Starting Oct. 17 this year, nonresidents may hunt on PLOTS and WMAs as long as the appropriate season is open.

In addition, all hunters are reminded that activities such as riding horses for hunting purposes or for pleasure on PLOTS require written permission from the landowner. Permission from the landowner is always required for motorized vehicle access, such as for setting decoys in a field, unless specially designated on the PLOTS sign.

Also, leaving equipment or other provisions in a PLOTS area overnight, for example tress stands or blinds, decoys, firearms and archery equipment, trail cameras, or any type of bait used to attract big game animals, is not allowed without written permission from the landowner.




Many applications were not available yet but are anticipated to start showing up over the next couple of weeks.

Those applications that are know are shown here.

Spring Turkey: April 15th-opener
Deer Bow: September19th
Fall Turkey: October 3rd
Deer Rifle: November 7th
Bear: May 2
Elk: June 13
Camp Ripley Archery: August 15


Important NDHEA info regarding Mentored Hunts and Family Shooting events

NDHEA is pleased to be offering assistance with funding for Mentored Hunts and Family Shooting Events!

Family Fun Shoot/Mentored Hunt policies

click here to download a copy of the policies

Request for Participation (RFP) to conduct an event

click here to download the RFP form



All meetings are to be held at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department building in Bismarck.

The following meetings will be held instead in Minot ND @
Minot Holiday Inn Riverside
2200 East Burdick Expressway
Minot ND. 58701


Coyote Catalog Available for Hunters, Landowners

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department have reopened the Coyote Catalog to connect coyote hunters and trappers with landowners who want fewer coyotes in their areas.
The Coyote Catalog is an online database similar to the one the Game and Fish Department uses to connect deer hunters with farmers and ranchers.
“We’ve had a lot of success matching deer hunters with landowners,” said NDGF Director Terry Steinwand. “We hope the Coyote Catalog works out just as well.”
NDDA officials estimate livestock producers in North Dakota lost more than $1 million last year to coyotes. At the same time, coyotes are a popular furbearer species for hunters and trappers.
“I encourage landowners, especially farmers and ranchers who have problems with coyote depredation, to sign up for the Coyote Catalog,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “Hunting and trapping are valuable tools in managing these predators.”
Goehring and Steinwand said the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services should be the first contact for landowners experiencing coyote depredation of livestock.
Landowners can sign up on the NDDA website at www.nd.gov/ndda/coyote-catalog. Required information includes county and contact information.
Hunters and trappers can sign up at the NDGF website at www.gf.nd.gov.
Periodically throughout the winter, hunters or trappers will receive information on participating landowners, and they can then contact landowners to make arrangements.
Although the Coyote Catalog does not guarantee a good match for every participating landowner or hunter, Goehring and Steinwand said it has great potential to focus hunting or trapping pressure in areas where farmers and ranchers are experiencing coyote depredation problems.
Anyone who registered for the Coyote Catalog in the past must register again to activate their names on the database.
The Coyote Catalog will remain active through March 31, and then start up again next winter.

Game and Fish to Recommend One Deer License in 2015

A new plan under consideration by the State Game and Fish Department would allow North Dakota deer hunters only one license per year, starting with the 2015 season.
The preferred license distribution plan is the result of a declining deer population and continuing high license demand. “This year we had about 30,000 people who applied for a deer gun license and didn’t get one in the lottery,” said Game and Fish wildlife division chief Jeb Williams. “This new system will give more people an opportunity to hunt deer each year, compared to our current system.”
To gather input on possible changes, Game and Fish held a series of public deer management meetings across the state last winter. Hundreds of people attended these meetings, and many more interested hunters and landowners also provided written or verbal comments on how Game and Fish might manage deer license distribution, given the low population of both whitetail and mule deer in much of the state.
Following the deer management meetings, potential changes were also discussed at the spring round of public Game and Fish advisory board meetings held around the state.
“After evaluating all the input we received last winter,” Williams said, “the general feedback we heard is that hunters understand there is no longer enough licenses so that everyone can get one for the gun season, but at the same time, they don’t feel the current system is equitably distributing licenses, since some hunters can get two or even three licenses when thousands of hunters get none.”
To begin to address that inequity, Game and Fish’s preferred option for 2015 is to limit each hunter to one deer license per year. Williams said that still doesn’t guarantee that every gun hunter who applies in the lottery will get a deer license, but it will eliminate the possibility of someone getting multiple licenses.
If deer populations rebound substantially, Williams said the way licenses are allocated could return to the current system. “However, we are dealing with two dynamics that will make it difficult to do so anytime soon,” Williams added. “We have a deer herd that has been trending downward for several years, and we also have a growing population of people who possibly are interested in North Dakota’s hunting and fishing opportunities.”
In the preferred option, a hunter who is successful in the deer gun lottery would not be able to purchase a bow license or receive a muzzleloader license. However, as a way to provide additional bowhunting recreation, a hunter with a lottery gun license could also hunt with a bow any time during the open archery season, but only for the deer and unit specified on the license.
Resident hunters who apply in the deer gun lottery and do not receive a license, will still be able to purchase a bow license that is valid statewide for any deer.
“This is one of those things that we heard from people who like to hunt with both gun and bow,” Williams said. “They wanted to be able to apply for a gun license, and if they didn’t get one, they could still get a bow license. At the same time, if they did draw a gun license, they wanted a chance to hunt that deer with a bow during the archery season as well.
“We know it’s not the same as having both a gun and a bow license,” Williams added, “but we feel it’s a fair compromise while we work toward rebuilding our deer herd.”
Another part of the preferred option is that hunters would be able to apply simultaneously for the deer gun and muzzleloader lotteries. The application would allow choice of a preference, so if the hunter’s name is drawn and both muzzleloader and deer gun licenses are available at that time, the computer would issue the hunter’s preferred license.
In such cases, the computer would then remove the hunter’s name from the other lottery. Also in that case, Williams said a hunter would maintain the accumulated bonus points for the application that was removed from the lottery.
In addition, Williams said hunters will not lose any bonus points if they choose not to apply for a particular license.
Youth hunters under age 16 would be exempt under the preferred option, and could get a bow license as well as a deer gun or youth season license.
Gratis license holders could hunt in any open season on their own land, but may only get one license per year.

Information Sought in Illegal Taking of White-tailed Deer in Emmons County

North Dakota Game and Fish Department district game warden Erik Schmidt is searching for answers in the illegal shooting of four white-tailed deer in Emmons County during opening weekend of pheasant hunting season.
Schmidt said two mature bucks, one a 4x4 and the other a 5x5, were found in a bean field 1.5 miles east of Strasburg. A doe and fawn were found in a stubble field 5 miles southwest of Linton. It is believed all four were shot late evening Oct. 11, or early morning Oct. 12.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Report All Poachers telephone number at 800-472-2121, or contact Schmidt at 701-220-7160. RAP is offering a $1,000 reward.
The RAP line offers rewards for information that leads to conviction of fish and wildlife law violators. Reporting parties can remain anonymous.


Sportsmen Against Hunger Accepting Goose Meat

North Dakota’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program can now accept donations of Canada geese taken during the regular waterfowl hunting season.
Previously, the program could accept snow, blue and Ross’s geese during the regular season, but Canada goose donations were only allowed during the early Canada goose season.
This new opportunity for hunters to donate goose meat is part of a two-year pilot program between the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“In the past couple of years we have heard from many hunters who would like to donate geese taken during the regular season,” said Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand. “We appreciate the Fish and Wildlife Service setting up this pilot program so we can see how well it works.”
North Dakota Community Action Sportsmen Against Hunger program coordinator Sarah Hasbargen said the additional donations accepted during this pilot project will be a much-needed increase to food pantries across the state. “We will accept as much as hunters are able to donate,” Hasbargen said, while mentioning donated goose meat must be received no later than the day after the close of the season.
Provisions for donating goose meat during the regular season are basically the same as for the early Canada goose season. In addition, hunters can also donate meat from geese that were taken during the early season.
Hunters can bring their geese home and clean them prior to delivering meat to a processor, but breast meat brought from home without a wing or head attached to the meat, must be accompanied by written information that includes the hunter’s name, address, signature, hunting license number, date taken and species and number taken.
Hunters may also deliver geese directly from the field to a processor, but identification must remain attached to the bird until in possession of the processor. Since no goose carcasses or feathers are allowed inside processing plants, hunters must be able to ensure proper disposal and clean-up of carcasses.
The list of participating processors is available on the Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov, and at the NDCAP website, www.capnd.org.
Hunters interested in donating are encouraged to call the processor before dropping off geese, to have a clear understanding of how processors will accept goose breasts, and their hours of operation.
The North Dakota Community Action Sportsmen Against Hunger is a charitable program that raises money for processing of donated goose and deer meat, and coordinates distribution of donated meat to food pantries in North Dakota. It is administered by the North Dakota Community Action Partnership, a nonprofit agency that serves low-income families across the state.
SFor more information, visit the NDCAP website, or contact Sarah Hasbargen at 701-232-2452.



NDGF Legislative Update

View the status of outdoor related legislation here


Remaining Fall Turkey Licenses Available Sept. 30

The 2015 fall wild turkey lottery has been held and 990 licenses remain in eight units. Unsuccessful applicants who applied online will have a refund issued directly to their credit card.

Beginning Sept. 30, all remaining licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters are allowed a maximum of 15 licenses for the fall season.

Resident and nonresident hunters will be able to apply online, or print out an application to mail, at the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Paper applications will also be available at license vendors.

The fall turkey season runs from Oct. 10 – Jan. 3, 2016.

Licenses remain for the following units: Unit 03, Benson and Ramsey counties and a portion of Pierce County, 16 licenses; Unit 13, Dunn County, 202; Unit 19, Grant County, Sioux County, and parts of Morton County, 10; Unit 25, McHenry County and portions of Pierce and Ward counties, 377; Unit 30, a portion of Morton County, 154; Unit 31, Mountrail County, 24; Unit 45, Stark County, 103; and Unit 51, Burke County and portions of Renville, Bottineau and Ward counties, 104.

Wetland Conditions Good for Duck Hunting

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual fall wetland survey indicates good but declining wetland conditions for duck hunting throughout much of the state.

Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird supervisor, said once again the northwest region has the highest number of wetlands holding water, but virtually all areas of the state are drier than last year, with the poorest conditions and most extreme declines in the southern half of the state.

“The general trend is that wetland conditions are best in the northwest and north central, but begin to decline moving south and east across the state,” Szymanski said. “The southeast region had conditions that were comparable to lows observed in 2012.”

Szymanski said this year’s moisture conditions have been somewhat of a roller coaster – fairly dry through April, extremely wet in May and June, and then dry again beginning in July.

“Drying conditions should provide good loafing areas for waterfowl and cranes along wetlands, but in some cases, this can make hunting difficult if there is wide mud margin between emergent vegetation and the water,” Szymanski added. “Hunters should be cautious driving off-trail to avoid soft spots, and areas like tall vegetation that could be a fire hazard.”

The quality of waterfowl hunting in North Dakota is predicated on weather conditions and patterns. Szymanski said strong reproduction for ducks in breeding areas both in and outside of North Dakota makes for good fall hunting potential.

“Hunters should always scout because of ever changing conditions and distribution of waterfowl,” Szymanski said.

The wetland survey is conducted in mid-September, just prior to the waterfowl hunting season, to provide an assessment of conditions duck hunters can expect.


Boat Ramps Affected by Low River Flows

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reducing releases from the Garrison Dam, resulting in a lower river stage on the Missouri River from the dam down to the headwaters of Lake Oahe.

Access from boat ramps along the river, especially in the Bismarck/Mandan area, will become restricted or unusable for the remainder of the open water season. Ramps expected to be affected include Steckel Landing (Wilton), Hoge Island, Kneifel Landing, Grant Marsh Bridge and Fox Island.

Low river flows can cause boat access issues, and problems this year are compounded by the bed degradation that occurred in the river bottom during the 2011 flood. The two foot degradation in the Bismarck/Mandan area means with identical releases and flows, there are now two feet less of water on the bottom of each ramp than prior to the flood.

Boaters and anglers can check for current ramp conditions on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, and by contacting the local managing entity that is listed.


Brood Numbers Indicate Sharptails Similar, Huns Up

Data recently tallied from July and August roadside counts indicate North Dakota’s sharp-tailed grouse population is similar to last year, while Hungarian partridge are up.

Brood results show sharp-tailed grouse numbers down 4 percent statewide from last year, with the number of broods observed up 6 percent. The average brood size is down 15 percent.

The statewide Hungarian partridge population is up 22 percent from last year, and the number of broods observed is up 34 percent. The average brood size is down 14 percent.

Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson, said sharp-tailed grouse hunters should have plenty of opportunities to harvest birds, while partridge are trying to rebound from the past few years of record low numbers.

“There will be some localized pockets of poor hunting opportunities, but in general hunting for sharptails will be good,” Robinson said. “And even though partridge are up dramatically over the past few years, harvesting a bird will still be a bonus while out pursuing other game birds.”

The season for sharp-tailed grouse, ruffed grouse and Hungarian partridge opens Sept. 12. Hunters should refer to the North Dakota 2015-16 Small Game Hunting Guide for further season information and regulations.

Fire Danger Index Reminder for Fall Outdoor Activity

As hunting seasons and other fall outdoor activities get underway, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds hunters, anglers and other enthusiasts to be aware of the daily fire danger index.

Recent high daytime temperatures combined with typical dry late-summer ground conditions, could mean an elevated fire danger index that influences outdoor activities over the Labor Day weekend and continuing throughout the fall.

Hunters are urged to keep up with the daily rural fire danger index, issued by the National Weather Service, to alert the public to conditions that may be conducive to accidental starting or spread of fires.

In addition, county governments have the authority to adopt penalties for violations of county restrictions related to burning bans. These restrictions apply regardless of the daily fire danger index, and remain in place until each county’s commission rescinds the ban.

Hunters should consider bringing along a shovel, fire extinguisher, extra water and heavy fabric for putting out accidental fires. However, individuals who are not trained firefighters should not attempt to fight a fire that is out of control. Instead, contact the nearest fire department immediately.

The fire danger index can change daily depending on temperature, wind and precipitation forecasts. If the index reaches the extreme category, open burning is prohibited; off-road travel with a motorized vehicle is prohibited, except for people engaged in a trade, business or occupation where it is required; and smoking is restricted to inside of vehicles, places of habitation and areas cleared to mineral soil.

Information on current fire danger indexes is available through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov; or county sheriff offices.

Hunters should contact the respective county sheriff’s department or emergency management offices to find out about fire-danger-related restrictions in a particular county.

Swan Hunt Lottery Held, Licenses Remain

North Dakota’s swan lottery has been held and more than 100 licenses remain. Only hunters who do not have a swan license for the 2015 season can apply, as regulations limit hunters to one license per year.

Beginning Sept. 9, all remaining licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Resident and nonresident hunters will be able to apply online, or print out an application to mail, at the State Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Hunters may also request an application by calling the department’s Bismarck office at 701- 328-6300. The license fee is $10 for residents and $30 for nonresidents.

The statewide tundra swan hunting season is Oct. 3 – Jan. 3, 2016.  

Administrative Rules Hearings Set for Sept. 15

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s public hearing to address proposed amendments relating to aquatic nuisance species, originally set for Sept. 9, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 1:15 p.m., at the agency’s main office in Bismarck.

In addition, a public hearing to implement statutes for an elk license raffle for Annie’s House at Bottineau Winter Park, enacted by the most recent North Dakota Legislative Assembly, is also scheduled for the same time and place.

The purpose and explanation of the proposed rule changes are as follows:

Chapter 30-03-06-05 – Water prohibited. In addition to existing statewide aquatic nuisance species rules, anglers may no longer transport live bait in water away from the Red River. That means all water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore, or remove their boat from the water. All boats and other watercraft must have their plugs pulled when exiting the Red River. In addition, all boats entering North Dakota must have their plugs pulled.

Chapter 30-02-09 – Elk license raffle.  An amendment to create a new chapter for an elk license raffle for Annie’s House at Bottineau Winter Park. This chapter is being created per legislative Senate bill number 2017, section 3, enacted by the sixty-fourth Legislative Assembly. Section 3 of Senate bill number 2017 is effective through June 30, 2017, and after that date is ineffective.

The proposed rules may be reviewed at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095, or on the Department’s website at gf.nd.gov. A copy of the proposed rules may be requested in writing, or by calling 701- 328-6305, or emailing ndgf@nd.gov. Written or oral comments on the proposed rules must be received by Sept. 25, 2015 for consideration.

Anyone who attends the public hearing and needs special facilities or assistance relating to a disability should contact the Game and Fish Department at least seven days before the public hearing.

Select the documents below for more detailed information on proposed changes:

·         Emergency ANS Rules on Red River

·         Elk License Raffle for Annie’s House


Emergency Aquatic Nuisance Species Rules in Place on Red River

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is implementing two new emergency rules designed to prevent the spread of zebra mussels outside the Red River.

The rules are effective immediately and may affect anglers, boaters and other users of Red River water, according to Fred Ryckman, department aquatic nuisance species coordinator. The rules address recent discoveries of young zebra mussels, an aquatic nuisance species, throughout the length of the Red River between Minnesota and North Dakota. An adult zebra mussel was also discovered at the Fargo water treatment plant.

The emergency rules are as follows:

1.    Anglers may no longer transport live bait in water away from the Red River. That means all water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore, or remove their boat from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the river, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal. In the rest of the state, anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of 5 gallons or less in volume.

2.    All boats and other watercraft must have their plugs pulled when exiting the river, and plugs must remain pulled when the watercraft leaves the access area. In addition, all boats entering North Dakota must have their plugs pulled. This rule would also apply on any other waters where Class I ANS, including zebra mussels, are discovered in the future.

Violators of either of these rules are subject to citation and fines, and Game and Fish will continue to monitor angler and boater activity on the Red to ensure compliance.

“These two new rules will significantly reduce the risk that any Red River water is transported to other lakes or rivers,” Ryckman said. “It is necessary to establish the rules now because there is a lot of fishing activity in the Red this time of year, and zebra mussel veligers or larvae are likely to be present in the river for several weeks yet.”

These new regulations will be posted at all ramps along the North Dakota side of the Red River, and are in addition to other statewide aquatic nuisance species rules that are already in place. These include:

·         water must be drained from watercraft, including from livewells and bilges, prior to leaving a water body;

·         all other fish species may not be held in water and/or transported in bait buckets/containers when away from a water body;

·         no aquatic vegetation, or parts thereof, shall be in or on watercraft, motors, trailers and recreational equipment when out of water;

·         all water must be drained from all watercraft and recreational, commercial, and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces, livewells and baitwells, when out of water or upon entering the state.

The official emergency rule language is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov. If zebra mussels are discovered in any additional waters, these rules would immediately go into effect for those waters as well.

Emergency changes to administrative rules become effective as soon as they are filed with the state’s legislative council, but must follow the administrative rule-making process, including public hearings, before the rules become permanent.

A public hearing to address the proposed amendments is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., Sept. 15 at the Game and Fish Department’s main office in Bismarck.

Deer Lottery Held, Antlerless Licenses Remain

North Dakota’s deer gun lottery has been held and individual results are available online at the State Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

More than 1,400 antlerless deer gun licenses remain. Only resident applicants who were unsuccessful in the first lottery can apply for remaining licenses.

The first lottery application process – deer gun, muzzleloader, youth and landowner – had more than 95,000 applicants, and over 51,000 were unsuccessful.

An option for unsuccessful applicants to apply online for remaining licenses will be available Aug. 5. Paper applications for remaining licenses will be mailed to individuals Aug. 10. The deadline for applying is Sept. 2.

Remaining Deer Gun Licenses

(B = Any Antlerless    D = Antlerless Whitetail)




















NDHEA 2015 Raffle Winners


NDG&F Information

Adult Zebra Mussel Found at Fargo Water Intake

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has confirmed that an adult zebra mussel was found on an intake screen at the city water plant in Fargo, according to Fred Ryckman, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the agency.
Fargo city employees discovered the mussel while inspecting some of their Red River intake structures Thursday afternoon, said Troy Hall, water utility director for the city of Fargo. The species was confirmed as a zebra mussel early Friday afternoon.
Game and Fish had confirmed the presence of large numbers of zebra mussel veligers or larvae at several locations along the Red River earlier in the week, and this is the first documented adult zebra mussel collected in North Dakota waters.
Game and Fish and other stakeholders will continue to monitor areas of the Red River to gauge the presence and impact.
Now more than ever, Ryckman said it is imperative that all Red River water users, including recreationists, adhere to all rules and regulations regarding ANS.
“As we have said in the past, there is often little that can be done once a body of water becomes infested with an aquatic nuisance species,” Ryckman added. “However, we can prevent them from being moved from the infested water body to waters that aren’t infested.”
More information on zebra mussels, other aquatic nuisance species and related regulations is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov/ans.

Zebra Mussel Veligers Found at Several Red River Locations

Numerous zebra mussel veligers have been discovered at several locations along the Red River between North Dakota and Minnesota, according to North Dakota Game and Fish Department aquatic nuisance species coordinator Fred Ryckman.
In a survey conducted June 23-24 at six sites along the length of the river from Wahpeton to Pembina, Ryckman said that a significant number of zebra mussel veligers were found at each location. The survey was conducted by Valley City State University; samples were sent to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks veliger lab for analysis.
Veligers – the early life stage of mussels – are microscopic larvae that adult mussels release into the water. They float with the current and can attach in great numbers to hard surfaces such as rocks, boat docks and bridge pilings, and as adults can clog pipes such as those used for municipal or industrial water supply systems. They also feed on organisms that are primary food sources for newly hatched game fish.
This is the first time that veligers were discovered at any location downstream from Wahpeton, and in quantities of more than only a couple of specimens. Surveillance efforts on the Red River in the past five years detected the presence of zebra mussel veligers in 2010, 2011 and 2014, all found at the same single site near Wahpeton, Ryckman said. In addition to the location at Wahpeton, veligers were also documented in the recent survey at Pembina, Drayton, Grand Forks, Fargo and Abercrombie.
“Although these results are not totally surprising considering the recent findings of large numbers of zebra mussel veligers in the Red River at the Canadian border, and in past years near Wahpeton in the Otter Tail River in Minnesota, the results are certainly surprising in that so many veligers were detected at each of the six sampled sites,” Ryckman said. “And it’s even more incredible considering that in similar sampling over the past several years we’ve only detected about a half dozen veligers in total.”
The only known population of zebra mussels within the Red River basin in the United States is an established population of adult zebra mussels in the Otter Tail River watershed in Minnesota, upstream of where the Otter Tail and Bois de Sioux join together to form the Red at Wahpeton-Breckenridge. Ryckman says that although the Otter Tail River was the likely source of previous veliger discoveries, the volume of veligers discovered this year along the entire length of the river has biologists questioning if there aren’t undiscovered colonies of adult zebra mussels elsewhere within the Red River watershed.
The key now is for people using the Red to be extra careful about transporting any water away from the river, Ryckman said. “There really isn’t anything we can do to remove the veligers or any adult zebra mussels from the river,” he added, “but we can be on alert and do everything we can to prevent them from being moved to other bodies of water.”
In addition to following the ANS rules and regulations when exiting the river, Ryckman urges local entities and water recreationists using the Red to look for and report any suspected adult zebra mussels that they may find.
If mussels are found, citizens are asked to report findings immediately to a local Game and Fish Department district office. Pictures and life history of zebra mussels are available on the 100th Meridian Initiative website at 100thmeridian.org/.
More information on zebra mussels, other aquatic nuisance species and related regulations is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov/ans.
For video of the discovery click here.

Paddlefish Test Clean

Muscle tissue and eggs from 30 paddlefish snagged this spring have come back clear of any lingering effects from an oil spill in the Yellowstone River in Montana last January.
State Game and Fish Department fisheries chief Greg Power said Game and Fish and North Star Caviar, a nonprofit group that processes paddlefish eggs into caviar for sale, sent the samples to a lab for analysis to find out whether there was any contamination from 30,000 gallons of crude oil that entered the Yellowstone River near Glendive following a pipeline break in mid-January.
“Since fish below the spill could have been exposed, and the Yellowstone River extends into North Dakota where our paddlefish season is open, it was imperative we sampled the edible muscle tissue and eggs to make sure these fish were clear of contamination,” Power said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks found similar results earlier this spring upon analysis of 213 fish representing species known to live in the Yellowstone River between the spill site and the North Dakota border. All of those fish were found clear of any oil-related contamination.

State Wildlife Action Plan Open for Comment

North Dakota’s initial State Wildlife Action Plan from 2005 has been updated and is available for public comment by visiting the State Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.
The primary focus of the current strategy is to address North Dakota’s 100 Species of Conservation Priority, developed a decade ago as the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.
“We identified our state’s species of conservation priority, and implemented conservation measures to help keep them from becoming listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Steve Dyke, Game and Fish Department’s conservation supervisor. “And in order to receive state wildlife grant funds, we are mandated to update the plan every 10 years.”
Public comments are being accepted through June 8.
SWAP is a collaborative effort by Game and Fish staff, species experts, partner conservation groups, and state, federal and local agencies from North Dakota.

Deer Season Set, Online Apps Available

North Dakota’s 2015 deer season is set, with 43,275 licenses available to hunters this fall, 4,725 fewer than last year, and the lowest number since 1978.
Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the State Game and Fish Department, said deer populations remain well below management objectives in most units, and continuing a conservative management approach is needed to help with recovery efforts.
Any-antlerless (down 2,650 from last year) and any-antlered (down 1,150) licenses make up the majority of the reduction, while antlerless whitetail (down 800) and antlered whitetail (down 650) account for the remainder.
On a positive note, Williams said the mule deer population in the badlands increased for the third consecutive year, with numbers showing the spring mule deer index is up 24 percent from last year.
However, as was the case the past four years, there are no antlerless mule deer licenses available in units 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F. This applies to regular gun, resident and nonresident any-deer bow, gratis and youth licenses.
The number of licenses available for 2015 includes 1,875 for antlered mule deer, an increase of 525 from last year; 828 for muzzleloader, down 104 from last year; and 187 restricted youth antlered mule deer, an increase of 53 from last year.
North Dakota’s 2015 deer gun season opens Nov. 6 at noon and continues through Nov. 22. Online applications for regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader, and resident gratis and nonresident landowner licenses are available through the Game and Fish Department’s website at gf.nd.gov. Also, paper applications will be at vendors throughout the state by mid-May. The deadline for applying is June 3.
State law requires residents age 18 or older to prove residency on the application by submitting a valid North Dakota driver’s license number or a North Dakota nondriver photo identification number. Applications cannot be processed without this information.
Gratis applications received on or before the regular deer gun lottery application deadline (June 3) will be issued an any-legal-deer license. As per state law, applications received after the deadline will be issued based on licenses remaining after the lottery – generally only antlerless licenses remain.
Total deer licenses are determined by harvest rates, aerial surveys, depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff.

Sage Grouse Counts Remain Low

Results from North Dakota’s spring sage grouse survey indicate the number of strutting males observed remains well below management objectives. Therefore, the sage grouse hunting season will remain closed in 2015.
Aaron Robinson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department upland game bird biologist, said biologists counted a record low 30 males on six active strutting grounds. Last year, 31 males were counted on the same leks in the southwest.
Sage grouse are a long-lived species with low reproductive output, which makes population recovery slow. Currently, Robinson said, natural reproduction cannot keep up with natural mortality, and the densities of active leks may be limiting hens from finding males to breed.
“It might be that our last chance to increase the genetic diversity of our population is if another state is willing to provide some birds for a translocation, but the success of such a project is not guaranteed either,” Robinson said.
However, Robinson said the potential for a successful nesting season is good this year due to abundant residual grass cover brought about by last summer’s rainfall. “The outlook for a favorable hatch this year looks optimistic for the limited number of birds we have in the state,” he added.
Sage grouse management in North Dakota follows a specific plan developed by a diverse group of participants. With the threats facing the species and the decline in population, Game and Fish Department biologists do not foresee a hunting season in the near future.
Sage grouse are North Dakota’s largest native upland game bird. They are found in extreme southwestern North Dakota, primarily in Bowman and Slope counties.

Open Fires Banned on Oahe WMA

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is prohibiting open burning this spring on property managed 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. Haase said these woodlands are prone to wildfires prior to spring green-up.
"The combination of mild temperatures and a high fuel load in the river bottoms is of concern," Haase said. "In addition, it is an area of high use by anglers, campers and other outdoor recreationists."
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.
Fire Danger Index


Elk and Moose Seasons Set, No Bighorn Sheep Season

North Dakota’s elk and moose hunting seasons are set with more licenses available in 2015 than last year. However, the bighorn sheep hunting season will be closed for the first time since 1983.
A total of 301 elk licenses are available to hunters this fall, an increase of 40 from last year. Unit E1 has an additional 15 any-elk and 15 antlerless licenses, and unit E3 has an increase of 10 antlerless licenses. In addition, the split season antlerless elk only portion of E1 is eliminated to provide additional hunting opportunity and address late-season depredation issues.
A total of 131 moose licenses are available in 2015, an increase of 20 from 2014. Units M9 and M10 have more licenses than last year due to high cow survival and calf recruitment. Hunting units M1C and M4 will remain closed due to a continued downward trend in moose numbers in the northeastern part of the state.
The bighorn sheep hunting season is closed this year due to significant sheep mortality in 2014 caused by bacterial pneumonia. North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife chief Jeb Williams said an intensive search during last year’s rut revealed a majority of mature rams in the badlands were among the sheep lost to disease. “The summer 2015 survey will provide more information as to when Game and Fish may be able to re-establish a sheep season,” Williams said.
Online applications will be available March 6 by visiting the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Paper applications will be on the website for printing, and at license vendors the week of March 9. The deadline for applying is March 25.
Elk and moose lottery licenses are issued as once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota. Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

Register Now for Hunter Education Classes

Individuals interested in taking a hunter education class in 2015 are reminded to register early as most classes are held the first few months of the calendar year.
To register for a hunter education course, students need to sign up online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Many classes will be added over the next several weeks, and the rest will be added throughout the year as they are finalized.
To register, click on the online services tab, and “online course enrollment” under the hunter education heading. Classes are listed by city, and can also be sorted by start date. To register for a class, click on “enroll” next to the specific class, and follow the simple instructions. Personal information is required.
Those who do not have access to the Internet and want to sign up for a class can call the hunter education program in Bismarck at 701-328-6615.
Individuals interested in receiving a notice by email when each hunter education class is added can click on the “subscribe to news, email and text alerts” link found below the news section on the department’s home page. Check the box labeled “hunter education class notification” under the education program updates.
In addition, SMS text notifications of new classes can be sent directly to a cell phone. Simply text “NDGF HunterClass” to 468311 to subscribe to this feature.
State law requires anyone born after December 31, 1961 to pass a certified hunter education course to hunt in the state. Hunter education is mandatory for youth who are turning 12 years old, and children can take the class at age 11.

Game and Fish to Maintain Current Deer License System

The State Game and Fish Department has decided to not implement its proposal to limit deer hunters to only one license for the 2015 season.
While it is still months before the 2015 season is set, that means deer hunters will again be able to apply for deer gun and muzzleloader lottery licenses, and also purchase an archery license.
Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand said the decision involved several factors, including substantial public input both for and against the proposal, and significant costs needed to put the new system in place.
“One of our goals is to increase the deer population statewide, and we can still work toward that under the current system,” Steinwand said.
Under the proposal that Game and Fish offered in early November, in 2015 deer hunters who received a lottery deer gun or muzzleloader license, or a gratis license, would not have been able to purchase an additional archery license.
Game and Fish drafted the proposal based on public input and comments following eight special deer meetings held in February 2014. The meetings were set up to encourage public input on options for changing the way deer licenses are distributed, because of a significant reduction in the state’s deer population.
In 2014 Game and Fish allocated 48,000 deer gun season licenses, compared to more than 140,000 licenses as recently as 2008.
In addition, Game and Fish used the recent fall round of district advisory board meetings to further discuss the resulting proposal. “Over the past year,” Steinwand said, “we’ve had a thorough and healthy discussion on the Department’s role in providing opportunity.”
For instance, in 2013 about 10,000 hunters had both gun and bow licenses, while just over 20,000 prospective hunters who applied for a gun license did not receive any type of deer license.
“This was a social issue more than it was a biological issue,” Steinwand said, “but it is Game and Fish’s responsibility to address how our policies and regulations affect hunters as well as wildlife. We will continue to look at all feasible alternatives for future years that will provide opportunity for the most hunters possible.”