Spring Advisory Board Meetings Recap

February 19, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Managing deer herds is always a hot topic

Managing deer herds is always a hot topic

The spring tour of advisory board meetings brought Game and Fish decision-makers to eight towns across North Dakota over the past several weeks. These public meetings, held in spring and fall each year, facilitate interaction between hunters, anglers, trappers and staff tasked with managing the state’s varied natural resources.

Discussion at advisory board meetings seldom lacks for issues. Some are local, such as requesting stocking rationale for a community fishing pond. Others, such as the Conservation Reserve Program and waterfowl hunting regulations canvass the entire state and beyond.

As we all know, nothing can replace the benefit to first-hand attendance, but in case you didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of the spring meetings, here are a few highlights.


April, November, July – it doesn’t matter when, where or the specific purpose for a meeting – deer hunting is always in the mix. Recent statistics from the 2005 season have been crunched and few significant changes are in the works for 2006.

Hunters in North Dakota harvested just under 100,000 deer during the 2005 deer gun hunting season. The overall hunter success rate of about 76 percent directly correlates to a high deer population over much of the state.

In some units, however, hunter success was below average, as deer populations are lower and more in line with Department deer management goals.

The 2005 season provided some interesting statistics. It started with the Game and Fish Department allocating more than 145,000 deer gun licenses, an all-time record. Much of the increase was for antlerless white-tailed deer tags, solely for the purpose of reducing the herd.

On average, hunters spent three days in the field in 2005.

Hunter success for whitetail bucks was 75 percent, compared to 74 percent success for whitetail doe hunters.

Mule deer hunters had a slightly higher success rate – 78 percent for mule deer buck hunters, while mule deer doe hunters topped the list at 83 percent success.

Youth deer season hunters had an overall success rate of 44 percent, and muzzle-loader season hunters had a success rate of 49 percent.

With a relatively mild winter behind us, deer numbers in 2006 will again be high throughout much of the state. Early indications are that some units will probably have fewer licenses available in 2006, while others will have more. Overall, the total number of licenses will likely be slightly lower than the past two years.

Hunters can expect 2006 deer gun applications to be available in mid-May.


One possible change for 2006, pending approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would allow North Dakota to adopt what is being called a “hunter’s choice” methodology for establishing duck hunting bag limits. This option would be put in place for three years on an experimental basis.

Pintail harvest is carefully watched along with a handful of other waterfowl species

Pintail harvest is carefully watched along with a handful of other waterfowl species

Essentially, what hunter’s choice does is slightly change the bag limit structure in order to eliminate the short seasons for pintails and canvasbacks that have been in place the past few years. Under this scenario, hunters would not have to worry about accidentally taking an illegal duck during the latter part of the season.

The trade-off for the longer open season for canvasbacks and pintails is a daily bag limit of five ducks (it has been six daily for the past decade) that would allow taking of one canvasback or one pintail, instead of one of each as has been allowed in the past. In addition, hen mallards would also be included with canvasbacks and pintails in this category.

The daily limit of five would still allow five drake mallards, but only one pintail, canvasback or hen mallard – not one of each. In essence, this format means it’s the “hunter’s choice,” whether he or she wants to take a bird from the pintail-canvasback-hen mallard category.

The hunter’s choice experiment will involve all Central Flyway states. Some would have regulations similar to North Dakota, others would continue to have shortened seasons for canvasbacks and pintails. After three years, waterfowl managers will evaluate how the experimental regulations have influence duck harvest.

Without spending extensive time on past waterfowl regulations, this new proposal would assimilate aggregate bag limits.

The concept of hunter’s choice has been under development for a few years. Last year, in a survey of waterfowl hunters, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that a majority of hunters would prefer some type of hunter’s choice system, rather than having closed seasons on certain species

Hunters should look for a final determination later on this summer.


The ongoing saga of providing access at Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake continues. While access at Sakakawea is better than it was at this time last year, considerable work still remains for the foreseeable future.

Devils Lake access will also be similar to last year, with summer plans for installation of a new concrete ramp at Stump Lake, and possible new access sites on Pelican Lake and Lake Irvine, which are both part of the Devils Lake complex.

Don’t forget, the next round of advisory meetings for 2006 will take place in late November and early December.


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