Looking Ahead to Hunting in 2006

January 12, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

As of Dec. 27, two lions had been harvested, both of them during the November deer gun season

As of Dec. 27, two lions had been harvested, both of them during the November deer gun season

Last week I spent some time looking at fisheries issues and possible changes for 2006 and beyond. Now it’s time to look at recent hunting seasons and what might lie ahead in the next year.

Mountain Lions

North Dakota’s first ever mountain lion season runs through March 12 or until five mountain lions are taken. Game and Fish Department biologists continue to gather data from harvested cats so better information is available the status of mountain lions found within the state.

As of Dec. 16, two lions had been harvested, both of them during the November deer gun seson. Other sightings continue to trickle in, and public interest remains high. Although plans for 2006 are still under consideration, Game and Fish efforts for monitoring and managing mountain lions will likely continue into the foreseeable future.

There’s little doubt that, because of an expanding mountain lion population in the Black Hills of South Dakota, North Dakota will continue to see new animals coming in, and some of them may set up territories here.

Baiting

Baiting, especially for deer, remains a hot issue. The Game and Fish Department has banned baiting – putting out grain or other food sources to attract wildlife for hunting purposes – on all state wildlife management areas.

In addition, the 2005 state legislature considered a bill that would have restricted where bait could be placed on private land. While that bill did not pass, there is a strong possibility that bills addressing the baiting issue will be introduced in the next legislative session.

Concern about disease transmission, and other potential negative results baiting also underscore the need for quality habitat along with planted food sources or food plots, as opposed to nondescript feeding of wildlife such as deer and pheasants.

Deer

Many hunters who used to apply for a doe license in the first lottery are now applying for buck licenses, because they know that thousands of doe licenses will still be available after the first gun license lottery. This phenomenon is driving down the odds for getting a buck license in some units, and also for muzzle-loader season.

Many hunters who used to apply for a doe license in the first lottery are now applying for buck licenses, because they know that thousands of doe licenses will still be available after the first gun license lottery. This phenomenon is driving down the odds for getting a buck license in some units, and also for muzzle-loader season.

With multiple doe licenses relatively easy to get in many North Dakota deer units, hunters are putting more pressure on buck licenses in the lottery. Many hunters who used to apply for a doe license in the first lottery are now applying for buck licenses, because they know that thousands of doe licenses will still be available after the first gun license lottery. This phenomenon is driving down the odds for getting a buck license in some units, and also for muzzle-loader season. Some options for alleviating this concern are under consideration.

The Game and Fish Department also fields numerous suggestions for increasing doe license sales and doe harvest. Keep in mind, however, that nearly all of the deer licenses available in 2005 were issued. Only a few units had a significant number of licenses remaining, indicating across-the-board changes are probably not necessary to address issues that may exist only in isolated units.

Current record license numbers are part of the Department’s effort to reduce the state’s deer population to a point where it will annually support about 100,000 licenses. That’s about 45,000 fewer licenses than were available the last two years.

In some parts of the state, apparently, hunters are seeing fewer deer. As management goals are reached in these units and the number of deer licenses is reduced, hunters who want additional opportunity will go to units where licenses are available. That will in turn generate the hunting pressure needed to help those units reach their desired deer population.

Conservation Reserve Program

While the here and now of North Dakota outdoor recreation remains bright, in the coming year you’ll be hearing a lot about the future of Conservation Reserve Program. Contracts for about half of North Dakota’s 3.4 million CRP acres are set to expire in 2007. If this happens, it would change our hunting landscape dramatically in just one year.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Dept. He can be reached via email: [email protected]

Photo credits to the ND Game and Fish Department


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