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Matters of Opinion

Authors and Contributors

Terry Steinwand

September was a busy month in this neck of the Northern Plains for those people who enjoy what North Dakota has to offer in fall.

The month kicked off with dove season, followed by the Hungarian partridge, sharp-tailed grouse and ruffed grouse openers. Then there was the youth deer season opener, youth waterfowl season, early resident waterfowl season, regular waterfowl season and the two-day youth pheasant season.

And if we back up just a bit, the state’s bowhunting season for deer opened on August 31, as well as the pronghorn bow season for those lucky enough to draw a license.

If you look at that lineup (which should also include some fall fishing) and ponder for just a minute the outdoor activities that became available in September alone, it’s easy to understand why so many people look forward to this time of year. It’s also easy to understand why so many people proudly call North Dakota home.

And we’re just getting started.

By the time you read this, the pronghorn gun season will have opened, followed by North Dakota’s pheasant season, which is arguably one of the most anticipated openers in the state behind the deer gun season in November.

While many of these outdoor activities require varieties of equipment and as many differing strategies to fill game bags and livewells, they all have one thing in common. Habitat.

You’ve heard us here at the Game and Fish Department talk time and again about the importance of having quality wildlife habitat on the landscape.

Without adequate habitat on the landscape, for example, animals struggle to battle the harsh winter conditions that are often familiar in North Dakota. Without good habitat, animals take much longer to rebound after months of snow and cold.

While we’re working on recovering wildlife habitat that has been lost across all of North Dakota, it’s not a quick process.

What’s encouraging is that it’s not only our wildlife biologists who understand the importance of quality habitat, but many hunters and some landowners as well.

Evidence of this is in the number of hunters who, thanks to a bill approved in the 2015 legislative session, have donated their refunds after not being drawn in the Department’s deer lottery. That money, along with funds from those hunters who purchased bonus points rather than entering into the Department’s resident deer gun, muzzleloader, pronghorn and turkey season drawings, is earmarked for creating habitat that will benefit deer over time.

Of course, not only will the habitat be of value to deer, but to other wildlife as well. Kevin Kading, Department private land section leader, takes a closer look at this program in this issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS.

While this program will create quality wildlife habitat on Private Land Open To Sportsmen acres in areas of the state, it’s not going to be a quick fix. But, as Kading said in the article, “It’s a start … and we have to start somewhere.”

With a big chunk of fall still before us and many opportunities at hand, I encourage everyone to venture outdoors and experience firsthand North Dakota’s great outdoors.