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Hunters speak out on opener

Dean Hildubrand, North Dakota Game and Fish director, from left, and Gov. John Hoeven staff members Ron Rauschenberger, Roger Rostvet and Merl Jose, take testimony from hunters and land owners concerning the proposed Oct. 5 opening date for the pheasant season. A crowd estimated at more than 250 filled the Montana-Dakota Utilities Hospitality Room. - Photo by Gale Rauschenberger
By Gale B. Rauschenberger, Staff Writer

Hunters weighed in on the pheasant season opener at a meeting Wednesday at Montana-Dakota Utilities multi-purpose room.

Testimony in favor and against the proposed Oct. 5 starting date for pheasant season was attended by an overflow crowd estimated at more than 250.

The meeting was shepherded by North Dakota Game and Fish Director Dean Hildebrand who took testimony from individuals. There was no question and answer session.

Land owner and guide Dallas Lalim, who owns a private game preserve with a bed and breakfast on his farm near Tioga, testified that the one week earlier opening wouldn't make that much difference and was worth a try for economic reasons.

Dale Patten from Watford City agreed, and felt the Oct. 5 opening was an economic development issue. But, he was concerned over the controversy driving a wedge between land owners and hunters. "Its only one weekend. We can handle it," he said.

However, the vast majority of those testifying expressed a sentiment that was contrary.

Monte Ellingson, a hunter from Crosby, felt the change would put more pressure on farmers during harvest, which could lead to poorer farmer/hunter relations. Ellingson questioned a recent article by Hildebrand and felt the state had not thoroughly examined the consequences of making this decision.

Others expressed their unhappiness at pay for hunting,' claiming it caters mostly to out-of-state hunters who pay big fees to hunt pheasants in North Dakota.

Hunter Ron Wren said, "Just look at South Dakota where pheasant hunting has turned into a major industry. Now only the rich can hunt and Montana is the same way."

Another hunter, Dwite Bren, of the Pheasants Forever Chapter in McKenzie County, resents that the little guy is being squeezed out of hunting as wealthy out-of-state hunters move into North Dakota, paying to hunt and buying up land which in turn drives up land prices for farmers.

A strong theme that ran through the numerous testimonies was that Gov. John Hoeven did not get enough input.

Melvin Wisdahl, whose family has farmed and hunted in northwest North Dakota since it was homesteaded, summed things up for the governor's observers, Ron Rauschenberger, Merl Jose, Roger Raspid and Hildebrand. "I feel he shot himself in the foot by not getting input from hunters. It's a ... poor dog that ain't worth calling," said Wisdahl.

On a quieter note, Dan Kalil, Williams County Commission president, said he felt posting and access were key issues for pheasant hunters and farmers.

He said earlier pressure from vehicular traffic during harvest doesn't help relations between farmers and hunters, but a bigger concern for Kalil is the kind of hunting done by local resident hunters, who go out on the weekend with the kids and get a few birds, versus out-of-state hunters who come in and hunt intensively every day for a week or two, taking as many birds as they can, cleaning an area out, leaving nothing for the locals.

Hildebrand said land owners who wish to get a permit for private game farming can put out their own birds and circumvent the hunting season, bringing in out-of-state hunters to shoot the birds for a large fee. "... As long as they follow a few regulations that's their right as landowners," said Hildubrand,

Raspid added, "Most out-of-state hunters come to North Dakota because, unlike most of the country, they can still hunt wild birds here and that's what they want."

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