NORTH DAKOTA OUTDOORS/ DOUG LEIER: Wildlife management area rules aim to provide balance and reduce potential conflicts
Whether it's early September archery deer hunting, dove hunting or late-season pheasant hunting, North Dakota's 220,000 acres of state wildlife management areas are open to all hunters, and there is no preference or priority given.
And yet, the state Game and Fish Department has a number of rules and regulations in place to balance and reduce potential conflicts, which can and do occur when areas attract crowds or people try to pre-empt space.
This time of years, one of the more applicable rules relates to placement of tree stands or ground blinds for deer hunting purposes. The earliest that hunters can place stands is Aug. 20, which is, of course, already in the rear-view mirror.
The stands must be portable, and they must be identified with the owner's name, city, telephone number, the owner's North Dakota hunter education number or a unique identification number issued by the department. All equipment left overnight on WMA lands, including ground blinds, game cameras and traps, must have this identification.
Owners can generate an equipment registration number in their account at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. You only need to do this once, and the registration number can be used on all equipment that requires identification.
I think most hunters are aware of these rules, and yet it's surprising to me how many tree stands and trail cameras — dozens per year — Game and Fish staff wind up removing because people don't retrieve them by Jan. 31.
Tree stands and ground blinds also do not pre-empt hunting rights of others in the vicinity, but certainly there's a level of courtesy involved that says if you're pheasant hunting and see someone sitting in a tree stand in the area, you've give them a wide berth. The other side is that someone in a tree stand on a public hunting area can't expect they'll have the area to themselves, which could include others putting up stands in close proximity, or even someone sitting in their stand.
Here are some other WMA rules and regulations to remember. A complete listing of all regulations is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov/wma.
• Motor vehicles: Unless otherwise designated, motorized vehicles are restricted to constructed roads, established trails and parking areas normally used by passenger cars.
• Firearms: Use of firearms is allowed, except in a reckless or indiscriminate manner, and as otherwise posted at public road entry points.
• Baiting: Placing bait to attract wildlife for any purpose is prohibited.
• Littering: As it is everywhere else in the state, littering is illegal.
• Commercial enterprise: Commercial enterprise is prohibited. Cropping, haying or grazing are allowed by permit only from the Game and Fish Department.
• Camping: Camping for longer than 10 consecutive days is prohibited. Some WMAs are closed to camping altogether, while others have further restrictions.
• Group activities: Group activities involving more than 25 people require a permit from the Game and Fish Department.
• Drones: Use of drones, or any unmanned radio-controlled aircraft, is prohibited unless authorized by the Game and Fish director.