Most work or recreation plans follow the principle that you reap what you sow. The more planning and preparation, the better the odds are for success. Or, in other words, the time to start preparing for deer season isn’t the night before.

The search for the misplaced deer tag, the rifle that hasn’t been sighted in and an assortment of other unplanned hurdles can almost guarantee your deer opener memories will leave a little to be desired. Which is why many hunters start making plans weeks or even months in advance of the coveted opener.


Similarly, there’s a planning aspect to getting ready for boating season. Checking trailers, engines and safety equipment is all part of the process for most people before heading out on the water for the first time.

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In addition to a physical once-over, it’s also a good idea to go through a mental refresher on boating safety measures and rules and regulations. Unlike driving a motor vehicle in an environment of divided roads, with speed limits and colored stop-and-go signals, lakes and rivers don’t have turning lanes or stop signs, and it’s easy enough to forget some of the rules of the water from year to year.

North Dakota law requires young people ages 12 to 15 who want to operate a boat or personal watercraft by themselves with at least a 10-horsepower motor must pass the state’s boating basics course.

All boaters could benefit from taking a boater education course. In fact, some insurance companies give adult boat owners who pass the course a discount on boat insurance.

The course is available for home-study from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office. Two commercial providers also offer the course online, and links to those sites are found on the department’s website at

While the home-study course is free, students will be charged a fee to take it online. The online provider charges for the course, not the Game and Fish Department. The fee stays with the online provider.

The course covers legal requirements, navigation rules, getting underway, accidents and special topics such as weather, rules of the road, laws, lifesaving and first aid.

We can all agree that nobody sets out on a boating or fishing trip anticipating a collision or other water recreation emergency. Fact is, I’d argue that one of the biggest hurdles for anglers and boaters to overcome is the mentality of “it can’t happen to me.” Unfortunately, it can and does happen. As boating, fishing and water recreation activity increases from late spring through summer, please take the time to plan, prepare and adhere to safety rules and regulations.

We’re all outdoors to enjoy our time in a special and unique way, and keeping yourself and others safe is an important first step to creating memories and moments to last a lifetime.

For more information email or call (701) 328-6300.

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Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at

Doug Leier
Doug Leier