Archery deer hunters in Grand Forks County will have more access to bowhunting opportunities on public land this fall, thanks to a new five-year memorandum of understanding between UND and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
As part of the agreement, an unlimited number of archery deer hunters will be able to access the Forest River Biology Station and Wildlife Management Area along the Forest River northwest of Inkster, N.D.
UND and Game and Fish jointly manage Forest River Biology Station and WMA.
In the previous agreement, which UND and Game and Fish signed in 2013, access to the 160-acre site was limited to five archery hunters selected by lottery.
About 20 people applied for the five permits each year, said Jay Boulanger, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology and human dimensions at UND. The new five-year agreement, which the partners signed last month, removes the hunter limit and the lottery requirement.
"What we've seen over the last five years during our first five-year agreement with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department was that, on average, one or two deer were taken a year," Boulanger said. "We wanted to see that number increase so that we can better balance tree regeneration with wildlife production while at the same time protecting those lands."
The site is dominated by riparian forest with embankments leading down to the Forest River, Boulanger said. Deer tend to congregate in the area for shelter against winter conditions and disperse to the surrounding countryside when the weather improves, he said.
"Traditionally, many of the hunters would choose sites within the woods to set up tree stands," Boulanger said. "There are certainly sightings of deer in there. The hunters often see deer and that's based on the survey that we had been sending out to hunters over the years and getting feedback on what they'd seen and their harvest."
Hunters do face a few restrictions on using the site. Beginning with the Aug. 31 archery deer opener until Nov. 1, hunting only is allowed Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to minimize potential conflicts with UND faculty, staff and students who are conducting research, field activities or outdoor classroom learning, Boulanger said. After Nov. 1 until the end of archery season, hunting is allowed seven days a week.
Those kinds of opportunities also benefit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief, adding the partnership is a win-win for everyone.
"We are very pleased to partner with UND on the Forest River Biology Station," Williams said. "It provides the sporting public additional hunting opportunities from a university that is well known for its quality Fish and Wildlife Management program. It makes sense for both the Game and Fish Department and the University of North Dakota to be partners on these types of projects."
As with other WMA lands in North Dakota, permanent stands aren't allowed on the Forest River site. Portable stands, ground blinds and game cameras are permitted beginning Aug. 20 and can remain on the site throughout the season. Stands, blinds and cameras left overnight must include the owner's name, city, telephone number and North Dakota hunter education number or a unique identification issued by Game and Fish or UND.
The identification info must be clearly visible from the ground, and access is on a first-come, first-served basis; stands and cameras must be removed by Jan. 31.
UND has owned the site since the 1960s, using it for various classes and research projects.
"It's an excellent opportunity to bow hunt for deer in a nice piece of river bottom in the Red River Valley," Boulanger said.