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Doug Leier: 90 years later, North Dakota OUTDOORS continues to document hunting and fishing history

There was a time when the very suggestion of a huntable population of moose in North Dakota would have been thought an impossible dream. Since that first moose hunting season in 1977, both the population and the interest in hunting moose has grown.

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Contributed/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department

It’s easy to look at the negative impact the drought has had on every aspect of our state. But a recent feature in North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine had me looking at the “glass half full,” considering some of the historical notes of outdoors from the past 90 years when the first issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS was published.


On Sept. 30, Commissioner Maurek and Russel Reid, in an airplane, secured moving pictures of a whooping crane that was seen in company with a flock of sandhill cranes near Buffalo Lake north of Dawson, N.D. As whooping cranes have been declared by the Bureau of Biological Survey to be an extinct species, much interest has been exhibited in this report.



The staff working under the Federal Aid Division of the state Game and Fish Department estimate that there are between 7,000 and 8,000 deer in the state. The survey was made by airplane. From all indications, several thousand hunters will take to the woods for the season this fall.


The salmonid fishery (trout and salmon) in the Missouri System continues to generate new interest among anglers throughout Northern Plains states. Research and management of these species has been hard pressed to keep pace with fishery developments and public demand. Last fall marked the first collection of native chinook salmon eggs. Approximately 90,000 chinook eggs were collected and hatched at Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery. These fish will be stocked late next fall in the hatchery water discharge system, in an effort to establish a spawning run back to the hatchery.



There was a time when reports of a moose sighting in North Dakota would be challenged, scoffed at or ignored as a product of someone’s vivid imagination. Of course, that wasn’t always the case, as moose once thrived, as they do now, in the wooded areas of northeast and north central North Dakota. There was also a time the very suggestion of a huntable population of moose in North Dakota would have been thought an impossible dream. Since that first moose hunting season in 1977, both the population and the interest in hunting moose has grown. Since 1985, the department has issued 100 or more permits each year, reaching a record of 131 permits issued for the seasons held in 1987 and 1988.


Most North Dakotans have never seen a bobcat and likely never will. This speaks more to the animal’s furtive nature, habitat choice and predilection to hunt in low light, rather than its abundance in the wild. Like a whisper, quietly slipping through the cedar and sage of the rugged Badlands, the bobcat spends much of its existence unnoticed. Just because these predators aren’t as conspicuous on the landscape as, say, white-tailed deer or Canada geese, doesn’t mean wildlife managers discount their presence. Quite the opposite, as bobcats in North Dakota are carefully managed.


Ongoing coronavirus concerns have affected all of mankind, and though its consequences have been dramatic, many of its effects have been a surprise. One of these impacts has been the role the outdoors has had on our society. Outdoor participation in a myriad of activities has skyrocketed throughout the U.S. and world in the last many months. Camping, biking, hunting and fishing are just a few of the benefits being experienced by the public. Connecting or reconnecting with the outdoors has rewarded many (millions) with improvements to their mental health. In North Dakota, we’ve also witnessed an uptick in outdoor activities in the last year, and this includes angling. In fact, the 2020-21 fishing season has been record-setting in terms of license sales, participation and effort. However, if you turn the clock back to a year ago, there was talk concerning whether we’d have a fishing season.

After last year, it’s impossible to predict what the future holds for North Dakota outdoors but you can follow the hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation of our great state for free via the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, along with the modern day email , text and social media connections .

Sign up for the Northland Outdoors newseletter

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


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Doug Leier

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