Next to sunflowers, Private Lands Open to Sportsmen signs are probably the most visible yellow objects found across the prairies of North Dakota this autumn. Over the past years, PLOTS signs have become synonymous with quality habitat open for hunting access. The signs mark the boundaries of parcels of private land that landowners have opened to walking hunters through an agreement with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. But PLOTS is more than just acreage to hunt.
I bought a fishing license this year, just like I have every year since I turned 16.
It was a hot August Saturday, and I was at the pool with the kids. It was even too hot to fish. Ironically, the conversation turned from water and fish to big game during the dog days of summer.
Greg Power is the Fisheries Division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, so when he speaks of fish or fishing, I stop and listen. The other day, I heard him say, "Lake Sakakawea has more shoreline than the state of California." I stopped and thought about that for a moment and then casted again—from a fishing pier—on the shores of my favorite fishing spot.
Each July, I promise myself to fish more the rest of the summer. It's usually because I'm wondering where the first month of summer went, and I realize I haven't gotten out as much as intended ... so far. I do know I've never made it to fall freeze-up and said I've spent way too much time fishing, but it's always good to focus on spending more time outdoors, this summer especially. North Dakota never has had so many lakes with good fishing prospects. The state has about 420 "managed fisheries," and there is little argument that fishing in North Dakota is better than ever.
Here it is barely summer—the calendar says summer began June 21—and a lot of us already are looking ahead to what the fall hunting seasons might provide. While some prospects are risky to try to pin down just yet, spring weather conditions can give us some ideas about how various species have fared so far. After a light winter snowpack and a dry early spring, eastern North Dakota was about the only segment of the state not dealing with extremely dry conditions. With little runoff and no rain, April wetland conditions weren't ideal.
I grew up in the 1980s when recommendations for seatbelt use were turning into laws, and people were trying to adjust to the process of having to click in before driving off. And who would argue about that? It's impossible to plan the best time to wear or not wear a safety belt, so it just makes sense to wear one all the time. The premise for wearing personal flotation devices while in a boat isn't much different.
This is the time of year when North Dakota Game and Fish Department game wardens, biologists and other staff throughout the state handle an influx of calls about young animals. From seemingly abandoned deer fawns to birds that fell from a nest or a mother duck trying to lead her brood across a crowded city parking lot, people care about North Dakota wildlife and want to do what they can to help when these situations arise. But the best thing to do in almost all such cases is simply to leave the young animal alone.
The late Dean Hildebrand, North Dakota Game and Fish Department director from 1996 through 2005, had a number of quotes that typically connected his small-town North Dakota roots to the management of hunting, fishing and conservation in North Dakota. One that is appropriate now, since details of the 2015 deer gun, archery and muzzleloader seasons are official, went something like this: "There's three things every guy in North Dakota thinks he can do.
The 2015 North Dakota legislative session recently wrapped up.