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?"
Charismatic megafauna. The first time I heard that term was not in college biology classes or early in my career with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, but at a district advisory board meeting some years ago, when a former Game and Fish administrator used it in reference to mountain lions. It's a term that roughly describes "a large animal that inspires fascination," and it fit mountain lions then, and it still fits today.
Many people who hunt waterfowl are familiar with a season-setting process that in the northern tier of states is finalized only a few weeks before opening day. Starting this year, however, the process is changing. What previously was a two-cycle regulatory practice—one for waterfowl and one for other migratory birds such as doves, woodcock and cranes—now is compressed into a single, annual process that in the end will allow state agencies to officially set their migratory bird seasons much earlier than previously.
January and February typically generate a few phone calls and emails from parents, teachers, school counselors and high school and college students about careers in the outdoors. I had a conversation with a counselor recently that might help answer some of those questions. The counselor has a student who loves to hunt and fish, and she thought a career in the natural resources field was worth consideration for the student.
Every year, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department certifies between 5,000 and 6,000 hunter education students. This is the time of year when many of those students are looking for classes so they can legally hunt when their chosen season comes around.
Even after three decades, I still run into people who don't realize the Conservation Reserve Program is a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At its peak in 2007, 36.7 million acres were enrolled in CRP nationally. North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota were among the leaders in CRP enrollment, and the program was popular in northwest Minnesota, too. Since then, the program has lost acres steadily as the acreage cap was reduced. Today, about 24 million acres are enrolled nationally, which is the maximum acreage allowed.