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July isn't too soon to find a place to hunt

At the risk of seeming to whisk the summer along, I'm going to talk about fall hunting in July. I feel a bit justified, as the fall turkey application deadline just passed. Fear not, there may be licenses still available after the drawing is held...

At the risk of seeming to whisk the summer along, I'm going to talk about fall hunting in July.

I feel a bit justified, as the fall turkey application deadline just passed. Fear not, there may be licenses still available after the drawing is held.

In addition, during the past few years, it seems July has become a pivotal month for beginning to plan for fall hunting.

In reality, we're now just weeks -- and not months -- from the early Canada goose season opener, with dove and archery deer rolling out around the same time fall football games begin.

One of the more common conversations I encounter as preseason planning gets rolling relates to hunting and access. I took a call a few weeks back from an exasperated hunter whose concern was, in a nutshell, "What do I do to find a place to hunt? ... What is the Game and Fish Department doing for the average Joe hunter?"

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The simplistic answer would have been to direct the hunter to the Game and Fish Department's Private Land Open to Sportsmen guide, which highlights a million acres of private land to which Game and Fish has worked to secure hunting access for a number of years.

The hunter's concern, however, is not an isolated one, nor is the answer nearly that simple.

When I began hunting, and even in the mid-1990s when I started working for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, there was no such thing as a PLOTS program. Today, to have a million acres open to walk-in hunting access for ducks, deer, grouse, partridge, geese or other species is impressive by any standards.

Still, that's only a small percentage of the land in North Dakota that holds hunting potential. In addition, not every PLOTS tract is the same, nor can they meet the expectations of every individual hunter for species and location.

Think of your hunting landscape like a mid-July grill-out with friends. If the host says he'll provide the hot dogs, but if you want anything else, bring your own. At least, you know that you'll at least get something to eat if you show up with nothing. If you want something more, like a steak or a burger, that's up to you.

In similar fashion, PLOTS and other public lands in North Dakota always provide someplace to go. If you want something more, that's up to you.

The success of private land access programs in North Dakota and other states in some cases has created an unintended reliance on these acres.

During the past decade or two, the new generation of hunters is not as apt to try to forge their own unique hunting opportunities on private land. Instead, they are pinning their hopes of fulfilling their hunting expectations on the shoulders of the Game and Fish Department. When those expectations are not satisfied, the situation calls for additional work in searching out land that isn't posted, or networking with landowners to find other places to hunt.

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Contrary to popular theory, it is still possible to get permission to hunt private land.

Landowners who experience depredation from Canada geese or deer, depending on the year and climatic conditions, may be very open to hosting hunters. Then again, many landowners allow hunters simply because they made the effort to ask. All it takes to find out is a knock on the door or short phone call.

Is this a guarantee the landowner will receive your request? Nope. And if they do allow access, it might not be the exact day and time that fits your schedule.

One thing is for sure. Hunters who are willing to make that extra effort, and who are willing to graciously accept "no" for an answer, will add to their roster of places to hunt.

And getting started in July is not too early.

Game and Fish and other public agencies have provided a basic foundation. It's up to individual hunters to decide how much they want to try to build on that.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov . Read his blog daily at www.areavoices.com/

dougleier

Related Topics: HUNTING
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