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Brad Dokken: North Dakota Game and Fish, Ducks Unlimited among groups getting creative with online alternatives during COVID-19 pandemic

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will hold its spring advisory board meetings online Monday and Tuesday nights and also is offering hunter education online this spring; Ducks Unlimited is off to a successful start with its online fundraising auctions that replace the traditional spring banquets.

Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, addresses sportsmen at a Game and Fish Advisory Board meeting in this undated photo. Game and Fish will host the spring advisory board meetings online instead of in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

The need to stay apart and avoid social gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some creative ways of doing things.

Necessity, as the old saying goes, is the mother of invention, and the outdoors world is no different.

This coming week, for example, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department will hold its spring advisory board meetings online instead of in communities across the state.

The department is mandated to hold the meetings twice a year in each of the state’s eight advisory board districts, and in a normal spring, small towns such as Fordville, Ardoch and Pekin — to name just a handful — have hosted meetings for the district that covers the Grand Forks area. Game and Fish staff from the Northeast District office in Devils Lake and the department’s Bismarck headquarters would be on hand to bring hunters and anglers up to speed on various outdoors issues and listen to concerns those in attendance might have.

It’s no different in any of the eight districts in which the meetings are held.


Whether spring or fall, the advisory board meetings traditionally are as much a social occasion as an information session, and the local sportsmen’s clubs or other groups that host the meetings often furnish chili or other goodies.

That’s not an option this year, but Game and Fish will conduct the meetings virtually, which is the way pretty much every meeting on the planet is being conducted these days.

The first round of Game and Fish advisory board meetings gets underway at 7 p.m. CDT on Monday, April 27, for districts 1, 2, 7 and 8, which encompasses roughly the western half of the state. The second set of meetings follows at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, for districts 3, 4, 5 and 6, basically the eastern half of the state.

North Dakota Game and Fish Advisory Board districts.
Contributed/North Dakota Game and Fish Department

Both nights, the meetings will begin with department presentations, followed by questions and answers with select staff including Game and Fish director Terry Steinwand, deputy director Scott Peterson, fisheries chief Greg Power and wildlife chief Jeb Williams.

The meetings will wrap up by 10 p.m.

Outdoor enthusiasts can check out the public livestream event on the Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov and also on the Grand Forks Herald website at grandforksherald.com . As the department said in a news release, questions can be submitted via live chat during the event or in advance at ndgflive@nd.gov .


I’d recommend anyone with an interest in North Dakota hunting and fishing to check out either or both of the livestreams.

This year, unfortunately, everyone’s on their own for chili.

Online hunter education

The Game and Fish Department on Wednesday said it also is offering hunter education online this spring to replace the traditional in-person classes that have been canceled because of the pandemic.

The online course is available for students who turn at least 12 years old before Dec. 31 and will allow prospective deer hunters to apply for tags before the lottery deadline in early June.

As the department explained in a news release, students who complete the course and a virtual field day will still have to attend one in-person class session before Dec. 31 to take the official written and practical exams. Students who don’t fulfill the in-person requirement will have to retake the course sometime down the road.

DU host online auctions

Ducks Unlimited also has gotten creative this spring, offering 43 state-specific online auction sites as an alternative to the fundraising banquets that have been canceled or postponed because of the pandemic.

The online auction sites were launched April 7, and plans are to hold weekly campaigns into early May.

“The response to this point has been fantastic,” David Schuessler, DU’s national director of event fundraising, said in a statement. “Given this is the first time we’ve ever offered current-year items outside a physical event setting, we really didn’t know what to expect. Results so far have proved, however, that there is still a strong desire to support DU’s ongoing conservation efforts, even in these trying times.”


The most recent North Dakota auction ends at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 25, and offers more than 25 items, ranging from numerous shotguns to an Argentina dove hunt and a six-day vacation for eight people to Belize.

Given the early success, I could see these kinds of auctions becoming a regular offering for numerous conservation groups going forward.

To access an auction, visit www.ducks.org , click the “My State” link, choose your state and click on the auction banner.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com .

Brad Dokken column sig.jpg
Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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