For hunters my age, the acronym HIP isn't anything new. At one time, HIP might have meant "aware" or "fashionable," but to those of us familiar with migratory bird hunting today, it also refers to the Harvest Information Program. What is HIP? HIP is a survey method developed by states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect more reliable estimates of migratory bird harvests throughout the country. The program provides agencies the information necessary to manage hunting seasons.
These days, spending time outdoors in August no longer is just about winding down the fishing season and starting the planning and preparation for hunting seasons that start in September and October. For hunters of my generation and older, perhaps that's still a back-of-the-mind thought process, but for nearly a generation of young hunters, the early Canada goose season has always been there as something to consider in addition to late summer fishing.
Walleyes are the most popular fish for a good share of North Dakota anglers, so it was good news when the state Game and Fish Department announced a couple of weeks ago that this summer's walleye production effort hit record marks for both the number of fingerlings produced and number of lakes stocked.
Most North Dakotans can relate to the trials and tribulations of growing a crop of any kind in the extremes of the Midwest. And it doesn't matter whether the crop is thousands of acres of wheat or a few square feet of backyard tomatoes. It's not much different with annual production of deer, pheasants and pronghorn in North Dakota. While the jury's still out on pheasant and deer production, it appears 2016 was a good year for pronghorns, and that means hunters will find more units open and more licenses available this year.
During mid-July, we obviously note the sun is setting a bit earlier, the small grains are nearing harvest, the Aug. 15 early Canada goose opener is nearing and hunters can begin to form plans for the fall hunting seasons. In the past few weeks, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has released some numbers from spring surveys, which might give hunters an idea of how this fall could play out compared to the last few years.
Even with more places to fish, boat and enjoy the water than ever before in North Dakota, the increase in opportunity also means an increase in anglers, boats and personal watercraft. It's a unique combination that can lead to isolated problems at boat ramps when everyone has the same idea: Get on the water sooner rather than later. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department offers these reminders that just might help calm things down when boat ramp congestion is cutting into recreation time. Launching
The spring round of North Dakota Game and Fish Department Advisory Board meetings wrapped up over the past couple of weeks. As usual, the dominant conversations were about deer. The fall round of advisory meetings occurs during the two or three weeks right after deer gun season ends, so it's logical deer are the dominant topic. You might think fishing topics would hold court in spring, but when you dig into it a bit, there is a lot going on in North Dakota this time of year that relates to deer.
Rummaging through drawers on one of the few cold, blustery days of the winter, I came across a hidden pocket of stuff. Crushed into the back corners were a few of the "old" paper fishing and hunting licenses I used to buy at a gas station on one of those sneaky warm April days in years gone by.
In case you missed it, North Dakota's spring light goose season opened Feb. 20, and no—it's not too early of a season. South Dakota's opened Feb. 15 and Minnesota's on Tuesday. I had the first reports of Canada geese the weekend of Feb. 20, and even before then, reports of snow geese were circulating in southern South Dakota. I have come to realize after more than 15 years of a spring season that just when we think we have it figured out, the weather and birds will prove again they know more than we do.
My job as an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is varied. I spend a fair amount of time doing media work, but I'm also helping out frequently with other Game and Fish functions such as checking on possible fish kills or fishing access areas, or conducting upland or small game surveys. One of those surveys is a count of waterfowl hanging around North Dakota in the middle of winter. When I try to explain my role in that midwinter waterfowl survey to friends, one of the first questions is: "why?"