Given the fall hunter harvest of pheasants in 2017 was down 24 percent from the previous year, there really was no reason to expect this spring's numbers wouldn't be down in similar fashion. And they were, down 30 percent from last year. R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was down statewide, with decreases ranging from 15 percent to 38 percent in the primary regions holding pheasants.
A year ago, North Dakota was experiencing a lack of precipitation that created dire conditions for rangeland, grasslands, cattle, crops and wildlife. What we didn't know for sure was the direct influence this drought would have on pheasant numbers for the fall hunt, as earlier 2017 spring crowing counts provided some optimism. While unseasonably wet, cool weather is not ideal for growing young pheasant chicks, extended hot, dry weather isn't good either.
Many anglers know the Red River that borders North Dakota and Minnesota is a nationally recognized fishery for catfish, and it's a certainly a target fishery for some residents and visiting anglers who may travel hundreds of miles to get here. While the Red River might be the catfish capital of North Dakota, the state does have many other waters where catfish can provide a different or new experience for anglers.
You won’t find my name in the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Whopper or Catch and Release clubs. Try as I might since my younger days growing up fishing Lake Ashtabula and the Sheyenne River near Valley City, N.D., and many other areas around the state since then, I’ve never really come close to catching a “qualifier.”
A reader and listener to one of my radio programs touched base recently to suggest that perhaps I might not focus so much of my conversations on safety, as "it takes the fun away from being outdoors." I always consider that "too much" factor when I write or talk about safety, but I've also seen too many injuries and dead bodies—especially early in my career when I was a game warden—to let one person or complaint change my tune.
Anglers continue to enjoy rapid improvements in technology, from the affordability and accuracy of electronics for depth and fish finders to improvements in lithium ion batteries for ice augers. While not as obvious to anglers, technology and creative management is improving fisheries research and helping Game and Fish Department biologists develop new fishing waters or enhance existing ones. Many of these advances were featured in the March-April 2017 issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine, with excerpts highlighted below. Management
For several months now, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has spread the word to let hunters know the agency is no longer using paper applications for its lottery licenses. This new, inevitable process actually began last fall with applications for swan and fall turkey. It continued this year with spring turkey and moose, elk and bighorn sheep, all in preparation for online-only applications for deer gun and muzzleloader licenses, which involves significantly more people than all of the other lottery licenses combined.
While North Dakota's new fishing season officially began April 1, at that time pretty much anywhere outside of the Missouri River, people who were fishing were still drilling holes in the ice. The ice is gone now, and the state's lakes are open for open-water fishing. Once again, North Dakota anglers have nearly 450 waters from which to choose, which may not sound like a lot, but consider this: In 1950, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department listed only 30 fishable waters in the state.
Just like everything else this spring, the boating season is a little delayed. But as the air and water temperatures heat up, thousands will head toward the water to enjoy time fishing, boating, on personal watercraft, paddling a canoe or drifting along in a pontoon. Whenever that first outing occurs, keep safety at the forefront. No matter how many fish you catch or the number of hours spent on a personal watercraft, a trip to the emergency room or worse will erase any amount of fun you had.
We're still a week or so away from the day the North Dakota Game and Fish Department starts accepting 2018 deer gun season lottery applications, so it's a good time for a refresher on how the deer license lottery works. But first, a couple of other reminders. One, the application period for gratis deer licenses is already open, so landowners can go to the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov at any time to get the process started.