Feds expand refuge hunting, fishing access

Rydell National Wildlife Refuge near Erskine, Minn., and Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR in southwest Minnesota are among 147 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries that will have expanded hunting and fishing opportunities this fall.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the expanded opportunities Tuesday, Aug. 18. At more than 2.3 million acres, Tuesday’s rule marks the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in history, according to the federal agency.

Tuesday’s announcement follows a proposed rule Bernhardt issued in April, opening the door to a 60-day public comment period that culminated in this week’s expansion.

Coupled with a 1.4 million-acre expansion in 2019, the Trump administration has expanded hunting and fishing opportunities by more than 4 million acres nationwide, Bernhardt said.

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“We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists,” Bernhardt said in a statement.

In the case of 2,120-acre Rydell NWR, the refuge's “Closed” and “Refuge” hunting units will be designated either as “Closed,” “Hunt Unit A” or “Hunt Unit B.” Refuge manager Gregg Knutsen in April said the 200-acre Closed Unit would remain closed to hunting, while Hunt Unit B, which covers about 450 acres and includes all of the refuge’s public walking and biking trails, will be open to special disabled and youth deer hunts as it has been in the past.

The remaining refuge lands, about 1,375 acres, are adjacent to the biking and walking trails and will become Hunt Unit A. According to Knutsen, Hunt Unit A will be open for the special disabled and youth deer hunts and also for new shotgun-only opportunities: spring fall and turkey hunting, ruffed grouse, pheasants, Hungarian partridge, tree squirrels, rabbits and hares, woodcock, doves and prairie chickens, the latter only for hunters who draw a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.

Waterfowl hunting will be limited to the two-day Minnesota youth waterfowl hunt, and deer hunting, other than the disabled and youth hunts, will be archery only, Knutsen said in April.

No refuges in North Dakota were part of the expanded opportunities announced Tuesday, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has expanded opportunities on several refuge lands in the state in previous years, including opening Lostwood and J.Clark Salyer NWRs to moose hunting in 2018.

The expansion increases the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System open to public hunting to 430 and those open to fishing to 360. The rule also formally brings the total number of National Fish Hatchery System units open to hunting or sport fishing to 21.

More info: fws.gov/rydell.

– Brad Dokken

DNR: Don't shoot research bears

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources again is asking hunters to avoid shooting marked research bears when the state’s bear hunting season opens Tuesday, Sept. 1.

The marked bears have radio collars and large, colorful ear tags.

DNR researchers are monitoring about 20 radio-collared black bears across the state, mostly in or near the Chippewa National Forest between Grand Rapids and Bigfork, Minn. Others are near Voyageurs National Park or around Camp Ripley.

According to Dave Garshelis, bear research scientist for the DNR in Grand Rapids, the collared bears provide much of the data the agency uses in bear management. A key to the research is looking at year-to-year changes in natural food supplies and how that affects individual bears in terms of their habitat use, physical condition, denning, reproduction and interactions with people. The research is not designed to evaluate mortality from hunting. Trapping new bears every year to replace the ones killed cannot substitute for long-term data on individual bears.

Most of the collars have GPS units that upload coordinates to a satellite or stores them to be downloaded when DNR researchers visit the bears in their dens. Each bear provides several thousand data points per year.

Any hunters who shoot a collared bear should bring the collar to a bear registration station and call the DNR Wildlife Research Office in Grand Rapids at (218) 328-8879 or (218) 328-8874 to report shooting a collared bear.

Taking a bear with a radio collar is legal, but the DNR recommends that hunters wait a few minutes to get a clear view of the bear’s head to see if it has large ear tags, which indicate that it is collared. Bears with small ear tags are not collared but are important for other ongoing research projects. Hunters who shoot a bear with a small ear tag should report it as they would with any collared bear.

Most collared bears also have a small implanted heart monitor under the skin on the left chest. It looks like a small, silver capsule that is about the width of a paper clip. The monitor contains valuable information stored in memory. Hunters who find such a device while skinning the bear should leave it with the collar.

The DNR also is asking hunters with trail cam photos of ear-tagged bears to email the photos and locational information – such as nearest town or GPS coordinates – to mnbearcams.dnr@state.mn.us.

– Herald staff report

N.D. pronghorn results available

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has completed its pronghorn lottery, and individual results are available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, the department reported Monday.

A total of 1,790 licenses were available in 15 units, and Game and Fish received 16,248 applications, including 689 gratis, for this year’s pronghorn season, according to a department news release.

All licenses were issued.

North Dakota’s archery-only pronghorn season opens Friday, Sept. 4, and continues through Sunday, Sept. 27. Season for hunters using either a gun or a bow opens Friday, Oct. 2, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 18.

– Herald staff report

Federal Duck Stamp required Sept. 1

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds waterfowl hunters age 16 and older that a Federal Duck Stamp is required beginning Tuesday, Sept. 1. Waterfowl includes ducks, geese, swans, mergansers and coots.

This year’s 2020-21 federal duck stamp is available for electronic purchase through the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, by phone at (800) 406-6409 or at license vendors registered with the department’s licensing system. Physical stamps are not available at North Dakota license vendors, but they can still be purchased at many U.S. Postal Service offices.

The electronic stamp is a purchase item like any other hunting or fishing license. When the purchase is completed, the electronic stamp is valid immediately. Federal Duck Stamp will be printed on the license certificate, along with an expiration date 45 days from the date of purchase. The actual physical stamp will be sent by postal mail.

The Federal Duck Stamp costs $25, plus an additional $1.50 to cover shipping and handling costs of the physical stamp.

– Herald staff report

NDGF issues equipment registration reminder

Hunters, trappers and anglers must display an equipment registration number or their name, address and telephone number on all gear requiring identification, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said this week in a reminder

Items such as ground blinds, tree stands, game cameras and traps require identification if placed on state WMA lands, the department said.

Cable devices such as snares that are set on either private or public land, along with fish houses left unattended on the ice, also must have identification attached, the department said.

Owners can generate an equipment registration number by visiting the “Buy and Apply” section of the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov. One registration number will be issued that can be used on all equipment that requires identification.

The equipment registration number does not expire.

– Herald staff report