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Outdoors Notebook: DNR wraps up northwest Minnesota elk survey

The DNR uses results from the annual aerial survey to set the number of elk permits it issues for the once-in-a-lifetime hunting opportunity, which is open to Minnesota residents only.

MNDNR elk 2.jpg
A herd of elk moves through a patch of woods in northwest Minnesota in this undated photo.
Contributed/Minnesota DNR

THIEF RIVER FALLS – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently wrapped up its annual aerial survey of elk herds in northwest Minnesota.

According to Doug Franke, acting Northwest Region assistant wildlife manager, the survey was scheduled to begin in early January, but lack of aircraft hangar space, coupled with extensive fog through much of the month, delayed the survey until late January.

The DNR was able to sample the Kittson Central survey area near Lancaster, Minn., in a few days, Franke said, and then flew both the Minnesota and Manitoba portions of the Caribou-Vita survey area in northeast Kittson County and southern Manitoba in about three days.

The DNR last surveyed the Caribou-Vita elk herd in 2018, an effort it traditionally coordinates with Manitoba to get a complete picture of the herd, which ranges across both sides of the border. Lack of funding prevented Manitoba from flying the survey this year, so the DNR worked out an agreement with Manitoba wildlife officials to fly the Canadian portion, as well, Franke said.

The DNR aircraft flew about 17 miles into Manitoba, Franke said, adding he doesn’t expect Minnesota will fly the Canadian portion of the survey area more than this one time.


The DNR wrapped up the survey of the Grygla elk herd on Friday, Feb. 10, he said. Survey results will be available sometime later this winter.

The DNR uses results from the annual aerial survey to set the number of elk permits it issues for the once-in-a-lifetime hunting opportunity, which is open to Minnesota residents only.

In 2022, the DNR offered 28 tags – eight either-sex and 20 antlerless-only – in Zone 20, the Kittson Central herd, and 15 hunters filled their tags, for an overall success rate of 54%. That was down from a Zone 20 success rate of 82% in 2021.

There were two bull-only tags offered in Zone 30 of northeast Kittson County – the Caribou-Vita herd – and both hunters filled their tags for a 100% success rate, the same as 2021.

The Grygla elk herd remains below management goals, and the DNR hasn’t offered a season there in several years.

– Brad Dokken

N.D. conservation groups oppose HB 1151

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Wildlife Federation and the North Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society issued this joint statement in their February “Conservation Notes” newsletter regarding HB 1151, a bill in the North Dakota Legislature that would prohibit the Game and Fish Department from implementing deer-baiting restrictions as a way to mitigate the spread of chronic wasting disease:

“Hunting and fishing are cherished traditions that provide valuable recreation and sustenance in our state. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is charged with protecting, conserving, and enhancing our fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. The Department, using the best available science, and considering public input create professional management plans and rules to achieve their mandated mission.


“But some members of the Legislature, representing individual or special interests, try to hamstring the department by bringing damaging legislation, such as HB 1151, attempting to chip away at the authority of the NDGF and negatively impacting the resource. Eroding the powers of the Game and Fish Department to provide professional management of our state’s resources is detrimental to the long-term health of our fish, wildlife, and outdoor traditions. These bills put our wildlife and habitat, as well as our long-term public hunting and angling opportunities at risk. Therefore, by letting NDGF use science-based management, involving stakeholders, striking a balance between conservation and opportunity, and rejecting reactive politics and harmful legislation, we can ensure that hunting and fishing remain a valued part of our cultural heritage for future generations.”

– Herald staff report

Spring snow goose hunt opens Feb. 18

The spring snow goose season opens Saturday, Feb. 18, in both North Dakota and Minnesota. Officially known as a “conservation order,” the spring hunt continues through April 30 in Minnesota and through May 14 in North Dakota.

The conservation action aims to reduce damage from light geese – snow geese, blue-phased snow geese and the smaller Ross’s geese – to fragile ecosystems in Arctic coastal areas and around Hudson Bay.

The conservation order is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds.

For more information and specific regulations, check out the Minnesota DNR website at mndnr.gov/Hunting/Waterfowl/LightGoose or the 2023 North Dakota Spring Light Goose Hunting Regulations at https://gf.nd.gov/regulations/spring-light-geese .

– Herald staff report

Student archery tourney set for March 17-18

BISMARCK – The North Dakota National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament is scheduled for March 17-18 at the State Fair Center in Minot. The tournament will feature competition in bullseye, 3-D and varsity.


The tournament consists of team and individual competition in elementary, middle school and high school divisions, with $40,000 in prizes awarded including $20,000 in higher education scholarships.

The state tournament and all other local and regional NASP tournaments are open to any student in grades 4-12 who attends a school that offers NASP lessons during the school day.

A complete listing of tournaments in North Dakota is available on the official NASP tournament website at http://www.nasptournaments.org . A certified NASP archery instructor must preregister participants for all NASP tournaments.

For more information, contact Jeff Long, North Dakota state coordinator, at jrlong@nd.gov, or call (701) 328-6322.

– Herald staff report  

Guide and outfitter exam set for April 1

BISMARCK – The next guide and outfitter written examination is set for 1 p.m. April 1 at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department headquarters office in Bismarck. Preregistration is required no later than March 24 by calling the department’s enforcement office at (701) 328-6604.

In addition to passing a written exam, qualifications for becoming a guide include a background check for criminal and game and fish violations, certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and standard first aid, and employment by or contract with a licensed hunting outfitter.

Hunting outfitter eligibility requirements include the guide qualifications, as well as an individual must have held a hunting guide license for two years and must have proof of liability insurance.


The test is given periodically to anyone interested in becoming a guide or outfitter in North Dakota.

– Herald staff report

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