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Buffaloberry Patch

Authors and Contributors

Greg Freeman

Two Deer Test Positive for CWD

A whitetail buck and a mule deer doe, taken during the 2017 deer gun season from unit 3F2 in southwestern North Dakota, tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to Dr. Dan Grove, wildlife veterinarian for the state Game and Fish Department.

Since 2009, the total now stands at 11 deer to test positive for CWD in North Dakota, and all were from within unit 3F2.

In 2010, the Game and Fish Department implemented special regulations in 3F2 and surrounding units to limit the natural spread of the disease, and to protect the rest of the deer, elk and moose herds in North Dakota.

In addition to the 350 samples tested for CWD from unit 3F2, another 1,050 were tested from deer harvested last fall by hunters in the central third of the state, and from any moose or elk taken during the hunting season. In all, more than 1,400 samples were tested.

Since the Game and Fish Department’s sampling efforts began in 2002, more than 31,000 deer, elk and moose have tested negative for CWD.

“The Department takes the risk of CWD to the state’s deer, elk and moose herds seriously,” Grove said. “CWD is considered a permanent disease on the landscape once an area becomes endemic.”

The hunter-harvested surveillance program annually collects samples taken from hunter-harvested deer in specific regions of the state. In 2018, deer will be tested from the western portion of the state.

The Game and Fish Department also has a targeted surveillance program that is an ongoing, year-round effort to test animals found dead or sick.

CWD affects the nervous system of members of the deer family and is always fatal.

Permanent Fish House Deadline

State law requires removal of permanent fish houses from North Dakota waters by midnight March 15.

Anglers are advised to use caution because mild weather conditions can quickly result in unstable ice conditions.

Fish houses may be used after March 15 if they are removed daily.

In addition, it is illegal to leave fish houses on any federal refuge land or on any state-owned or managed land after March 15.

Geese Tallied in Midwinter Survey

An estimated 135,000 Canada geese were counted in early January during the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey.

The midwinter survey was started in 1935 and is a cooperative effort with other state and federal wildlife agencies. It is now considered the longest-running, large-scale wildlife survey for migratory birds in North America.

Mike Szymanski, Game and Fish Department migratory game bird management supervisor, said the number of birds counted in January along the Missouri River and Nelson Lake in Oliver County was likely higher than expected.

“We actually had a surprisingly large number of geese using the river,” Szymanski said, noting that Lake Sakakawea was frozen over during the time of the survey.

While 135,000 geese isn’t one of the highest midwinter tallies in North Dakota, more geese were surveyed this winter than last (about 26,000 geese) when early snow and cold made wintering conditions difficult.

Interestingly, Szymanski said most of the Canada geese counted during the midwinter survey are birds that primarily breed in Saskatchewan, Canada.

“More than 90 percent of our geese that we count during the midwinter survey are going to be migrant birds,” he said.

Grants Support High School Trap League

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is launching a program to provide grants to local clubs or communities that offer high school trap shooting.

Marty Egeland, Game and Fish education section leader, said the grants are designed to support the North Dakota high school trap league.

“The grants are to be used for the infrastructure to support youth shooting, for example trap throwers, trap houses, sidewalks and voice pulls,” Egeland said.

Grant dollars are also available to help with start-up costs for new teams that are forming this year.

Interested applicants can print out grant applications online. For more information, contact Egeland at 701-328-6612, or email megeland@nd.gov.

Counting Rings and Aging Walleyes

Russ Kinzler, Game and Fish Department Missouri River fisheries biologist in Riverdale, counts the age rings on a magnified image of an otolith from a walleye caught in Lake Sakakawea. The 24-year-old fish was the oldest known walleye ever taken out of the lake by Game and Fish biologists. Kinzler said he has aged 23-year-old walleye from Sakakawea, and he sees a few others each year in their early 20s.

The otolith is the ear bone from a fish. Kinzler cracks the bone in half at the midpoint, then uses the candle on his desk to slightly singe the cross-section of the bone. He places the otolith in a dab of Play-Doh on his microscope stage, then examines the rings. Each ring represents a year of growth, much like a tree’s rings indicate age.

Kinzler said even though this fish was old, it wasn’t as big as a person might expect. He said it was 4.5 pounds at a maximum, and was just over 20 inches long.

Kinzler spends some time in winter aging fish caught during the summer months. He ages not only the walleyes from Lake Sakakawea, but also sauger and rainbow smelt. It’s a tedious process, cracking the otoliths in half, holding them over a flame with tweezers, and counting and recording the rings for each individual fish. This year, he aged 650 walleye, 200 sauger and 250 smelt. But it’s important work.

“The growth data shows us how healthy the fishery is,” he said. “We’re also getting mortality information out of that – it tells us an estimate of how many fish we’re losing out of the system each year.”

Though the mortality hasn’t been calculated from this year’s data yet, Kinzler said it’s been holding around 30 percent for the last several years. That’s normal for a fishery like Lake Sakakawea. If the data begins to show a higher mortality, Kinzler and the rest of the fisheries division will investigate the reasons and put processes in place to reverse the trend.

View video.

Nonresident Any-deer Bow Licenses

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will have 502 any-deer bow licenses available to nonresidents in 2018.

Applicants must apply online at the Game and Fish website. Paper applications are not available. The application deadline is March 1.

Up to five applicants can apply together as a party. A lottery will be held if more applications are received than licenses available. Any remaining licenses after March 1 will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

The number of nonresident any-deer bow licenses available is 15 percent of the previous year’s mule deer gun license allocation. The Game and Fish Department issued 3,350 mule deer licenses in the 2017 deer gun license lottery.

NASP Tourney in March

The North Dakota National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament is scheduled for March 23-24 at the State Fair Center in Minot.

The tournament will feature team and individual categories in elementary, middle school and high school, including awards and prizes, and up to $20,000 in college scholarships available to the top 10 boys and girls in each grade division.

Additionally, the top 10 boys and girls qualify for NASP nationals in Louisville, Kentucky.

The state tournament and all other local and regional NASP tournaments are open to any student in grades 4-12 who attend a school that offers NASP lessons during the school day. If a school has an after-school club, third-graders are also welcome, with permission from the coach and principal.

For a complete listing of tournaments in North Dakota, go to the official NASP tournament website at http://www.nasptournaments.org. A certified NASP archery instructor must register participants for all NASP tournaments.

For more information, or to find out if your child’s school participates in NASP, contact Jeff Long, North Dakota state coordinator, at jrlong@nd.gov, or call 701-328-6322.

Spring Light Goose Conservation Order

North Dakota’s spring light goose conservation order opens Feb. 17 and continues through May 13.

Residents must have a valid current season 2017-18 (valid through March 31) or 2018-19 (required April 1) combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license. The 2018-19 license is available for purchase beginning March 15.

Nonresidents need a 2018 spring light goose conservation order license. The cost is $50 and is valid statewide. Nonresidents who hunt in the spring remain eligible to buy a fall season license. The spring license does not count against the 14-day fall waterfowl hunting season regulation.

In addition, nonresident youth under age 16 can purchase a license at the resident fee if their state has youth reciprocity licensing with North Dakota.

A federal duck stamp is not required for either residents or nonresidents.

Resident and nonresident licenses are available online, by calling 800-406-6409, and at license vendors.

Hunters must register annually with the Harvest Information Program prior to hunting in each state. The HIP number can be obtained online, or by calling 888-634-4798. The HIP number obtained for North Dakota’s spring conservation order is also valid for North Dakota’s fall hunting season.

The Game and Fish Department will provide hunters with migration updates once geese have entered the state. Hunters can access the department’s website, or call 701-328-3697, to receive generalized locations of bird sightings in North Dakota until the season ends or geese have left the state. Migration reports will be updated periodically during the week.

The spring conservation order is only open to light geese – snows, blues, and Ross’s. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese. The conservation order is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds.

For more information on regulations refer to the 2018 Spring Light Goose Hunting Regulations and the 2017 North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Guide.

Hunter Education Classes

People interested in taking a hunter education class in 2018 are reminded to register early as most classes are held the first few months of the calendar year.

To register for a hunter education course, students need to sign up online. Classes are added throughout the year as they are finalized.

After accessing the Buy and Apply link, click on the hunter education link and “list of hunter education courses.” Classes are listed by city, and can also be sorted by start date. To register for a class, click on “enroll” next to the specific class, and follow the simple instructions. Personal information is required.

Those interested in receiving a notice by email when each hunter education class is added can click on the “subscribe to news and alerts” link found below the news section on the Game and Fish home page. Check the box labeled “hunter education” under the education program updates.

In addition, SMS text notifications of new classes can be sent directly to a cell phone. Simply text “NDGF HunterClass” to 468311 to subscribe to this feature.

State law requires anyone born after December 31, 1961 to pass a certified hunter education course to hunt in the state. Hunter education is mandatory for youth who are turning 12 years old, and children can take the class at age 11.

Youth Grant Program Application Deadline

Wildlife, shooting, fraternal and nonprofit civic organizations are urged to submit an application for the Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters program, a North Dakota Game and Fish Department grant program developed to assist recruitment of the next generation of hunters and shooters.

The maximum grant allowed is $3,000. The program currently helps fund approximately 40 club and organizational events and projects each year, with an average grant of $1,550.

Grant funds help cover event expenses, including promotional printing; event memorabilia such as shirts, caps or vests; ammunition and targets, and eye and ear protection.

Past funding has enabled several groups to conduct youth pheasant and waterfowl hunts, while others have sponsored trap and other shooting events, including archery and rifle shooting.

One change for this year is that all grants associated with high school trap league teams have a separate grant fund and application form, and these will be for newly-formed teams in 2018 only.

Any club or organization interested in conducting a youth hunting or shooting event can get more information, including a grant application online, or by contacting outreach biologist Pat Lothspeich at 701-328-6332.

The application deadline for a 2018 grant is April 10.

North Dakota Earth Day Patch Contest

The state Game and Fish Department’s annual Earth Day awareness campaign is accepting entries for design of a 2018 Earth Day patch. North Dakota students ages 6-18 are eligible to participate. The deadline to submit entries is March 15.

The Game and Fish Department will announce a winner in three age categories – 6-9, 10-13, and 14-18. Each winner will receive a pair of binoculars. The final patch design will be chosen from the three winners.

The winning design will be used on a patch given to members of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs and any school participating in Earth Day cleanup projects on state-owned or managed lands in North Dakota in April and May.

The patch should incorporate some aspect of Earth Day – celebrated April 22 – or keeping North Dakota clean. It must be round and three inches in diameter. There is a limit of five colors on the patch, and lettering must be printed. Name, address, age and phone number of the contestant must be clearly printed on the entry form. Only one entry per person is allowed.

Earth Day contest rules and entry forms are available online. For more information, contact Pat Lothspeich by email at ndgf@nd.gov, or call 701-328-6332.

Checkoff for Wildlife

North Dakota citizens with an interest in supporting wildlife conservation programs are reminded to look for the Watchable Wildlife checkoff on the state tax form.

The state income tax form gives wildlife enthusiasts an opportunity to support nongame wildlife like songbirds and birds of prey, while at the same time contributing to programs that help everyone enjoy all wildlife.

The checkoff – whether you are receiving a refund or having to pay in – is an easy way to voluntarily contribute to sustain this long-standing program. In addition, direct donations to the program are accepted any time of year.

Learn more about Watchable Wildlife program activities here.