While North Dakota's 2018 deer gun season continues through Nov. 25, it still generates a fair amount of questions and conversation preseason, midseason and postseason. First off, this year's deer hunting season did open later than what a lot of people think is normal. The traditional deer opener for more than three decades has been the Friday before Nov. 11. That means the range for the deer opener, based on this rotating standardized approach, is Nov.4 through Nov. 10.
North Dakota's first confirmed case of chronic wasting disease in deer was detected in 2009. Since then, CWD has become a familiar term to most North Dakota deer hunters, even though the total number of confirmed cases is still less than a dozen, and all of them are from the same unit—3F2—in the southwestern part of the state.
I grew up with the mindset that game wardens were busy during hunting season, wildlife biologists surveyed the birds and big game animals, and the busy time of year for fisheries biologists was spring and summer when spawning and stocking took place.
North Dakota doesn't have many bighorn sheep, but vast appreciation and genuine curiosity from hunters and nonhunters alike more than compensates for lack of population. As evidence of that, in March 2018, a record 14,617 prospective hunters submitted an application for a North Dakota bighorn sheep license. With two lottery licenses eventually made available, that equates to odds of more than 7,000 to 1 for drawing a license.
We are a few weeks away from the 2018 North Dakota regular deer gun season, and there are a few key reminders for hunters to consider. Every year about this time, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds hunters to find and verify their deer license. While you might think every deer hunter would know exactly the location of their license, it's a good idea to verify it now. If it's where you placed it when it arrived in late summer, you're all set. If not, there's plenty of time to get a replacement.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department's Private Land Open to Sportsmen, or PLOTS, Guide first was published in its current magazine format, instead of a fold-out map, in 2000. The popular program at that time was just a few years old and included about 120,000 acres enrolled by private landowners to allow for public walking hunting access. From that point, the number of acres in the program grew rapidly, peaking at more than a million acres about a decade ago.
Hunters have a legacy of providing biological data to wildlife managers to better help assess populations and shape hunting seasons and bag limits. One of those is the Harvest Information Program, or HIP. This is a survey method developed by states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a means to collect more reliable estimates of migratory bird harvests throughout the country.
One of the unofficial duties of the state Game and Fish Department's wildlife division chief is to set the stage for the fall seasons ahead in the annual hunting preview in North Dakota Outdoors magazine. That task currently falls to Jeb Williams, a Beach, N.D., native and a graduate of Dickinson State University. He's spent more than 20 years working in different roles with the department and took over as wildlife chief during the summer of 2014.
September may seem like a month to focus on early upland game seasons such as grouse and partridge, but we actually have three weekends in a row with waterfowl openers of one type or another lining up in the near future. North Dakota's youth waterfowl weekend is Sept. 14-15, the resident waterfowl opener is Saturday, Sept. 22, followed by the nonresident or regular waterfowl season starting Sept. 29.
The North Dakota Legislature established the general game license in 1967, and ever since then, deer hunters have needed one, in addition to a deer tag, before they could legally hunt deer with rifle or bow. Eventually, the general game license was combined with the habitat stamp, so today it's called the General Game and Habitat License, and you need one to hunt any game species, except furbearers, in North Dakota unless you are a landowner hunting only on your own land.