Skip to main content - The Official Portal for North Dakota State Government
Article title and buffaloberry

Buffaloberry Patch

Authors and Contributors
Greg Freeman

Testing for CWD

Deer head collection site

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will continue its Hunter-Harvested Surveillance program during the 2020 hunting season by sampling deer for chronic wasting disease from units in the western third of the state.

Samples from hunter-harvested deer taken will be tested from units 3A1, 3A2, 3A3 (that portion of the unit north of U.S. Highway 2), 3B1, 3C (that portion of the unit west of the Missouri River), 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2, 4A, 4B and 4C.

Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian Dr. Charlie Bahnson said given the COVID situation, Game and Fish is focusing resources and personnel to prioritize hunter-harvested surveillance in the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state where CWD is a little greater concern.

In units where CWD is documented, Bahnson said roughly 10% of license holders end up dropping off heads for sampling. Outside those units, in adjacent units, he said it’s more like 2-3%. That’s a number he would like to see increased quite a bit.

“In hunting units where CWD is documented, it’s important to get a good handle on where and how common it is,” Bahnson said. “But equally important, is documenting where CWD is not.

“In order to be confident in saying that we don’t have CWD in a unit, we have to test a lot of heads,” continued Bahnson. “Only testing 10 heads doesn’t give you much confidence. But if we can get a lot of hunters to participate, if we can test a few hundred heads from each unit, then we can start to confidently make assessments of whether CWD is likely there or not. So, hunter surveillance is a critical part of the big picture.”

Hunters are encouraged to drop off the head of an adult or yearling deer. Fawns and head-shot deer cannot be tested. Hunters wishing to keep the deer head can bring it to a Game and Fish district office during business hours to have it sampled.

The Department will attempt to provide results within three weeks, however, delays may occur. Results for lottery licenses can be viewed by logging on to their Game and Fish account and clicking on “Additional Info” for the associated license. Results for first-come, first-served licenses will be sent via email. To add or update contact information, visit My Account at the Department’s website,

Hunters should note a carcass or head of a deer taken from units 3A1, 3B1, 3F2, 4B and 4C may not be transported to a collection site outside of the unit. Exception: hunters can transport the whole deer carcass between adjoining CWD carcass restricted units.

More information on CWD, including transportation restrictions, is available at the Game and Fish website.

Hunters are encouraged to drop off deer heads at the following locations:

  • Alexander – Sather Lake Recreation Area
  • Amidon – Mo’s Bunker Bar
  • Beach – Gooseneck Implement
  • Belfield – Badlands Taxidermy, Game and Fish disposal site, Superpumper
  • Bismarck – 3Be Meats, Game and Fish office, West Dakota Meats
  • Blaisdell – BJ Taxidermy
  • Bottineau – Mattern Family Meats
  • Bowbells – The Joint
  • Bowman – Frontier Travel Center
  • Carson – Hertz Hardware
  • Crosby – Cenex/New Century Ag
  • Dickinson – Game and Fish office, Wildlife Creations
  • Elgin – Gunny’s Bait and Tackle, Melvin’s Taxidermy
  • Flasher – Game and Fish disposal site
  • Fort Yates – Prairie Knights Quik Mart
  • Fortuna – The Teacher’s Lounge
  • Garrison – Myers’ Meats and Supplies
  • Glen Ullin – Kuntz’s Butcher Shop
  • Grassy Butte – Sweet Crude Travel Center
  • Grenora – Farmer’s Union
  • Hettinger – Dakota Packing
  • Kenmare – Jessica Ware’s Taxidermy, Farmers Union
  • Killdeer – Grab N Go
  • Mandan – Butcher Block Meats
  • Minot – Blom’s Locker and Processing, Frenchy’s Taxidermy, State Fairgrounds, Wallen’s Taxidermy
  • Mohall – Engebretson Processing, Farmer’s Union
  • Mott – 4 Corners Car Wash
  • New Leipzig – Hertz Hardware, Game and Fish disposal site
  • New Salem – Arrowhead Inn
  • New Town – TAT Fish and Wildlife Division Office
  • Parshall – Myers’ Meats and Supplies
  • Powers Lake – Farmers Union
  • Ray – Horizon-Cenex, Thoreson’s Meat Processing
  • Richardton – Farmers Union
  • Riverdale – Game and Fish office
  • Scranton – Wolf’s Meat Processing
  • Selfridge – Cenex
  • Sentinel Butte – Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch
  • Solen – Hettich Salvage
  • Stanley – Ace Hardware
  • Tioga – Recycling Center
  • Watford City – Farmers Union Cenex, Forest Service office
  • Williston – Bickler Taxidermy, Dave’s Heads or Tails Taxidermy, Mounts By Mert, Game and Fish office, Zerr’s Taxidermy

Mussels on the Sheyenne River

Student in river holding mussel

Mike Johnson, Game and Fish Department fisheries biologist in Jamestown, was one of a number of people, including students from Valley City State University, who combined efforts this fall to collect and relocate more than 10,000 mussels below Kathryn Dam on the Sheyenne River.

The relocation project was spearheaded by Andre Delorme, professor at VCSU. The mussels were removed from what is North Dakota’s largest mussel bed because of work being done to the dam that would be detrimental to the mussels. Mussels are native to North Dakota and have been here thousands of years. Those collected during the relocation effort were moved well upstream of the dam.

Delorme said that while the site below the dam was still considered the largest bed in the state before the relocation project, it isn’t what it once was. Twelve years ago, Delorme said there was an estimated 100,000 mussels in that stretch of river. He added that these filter feeders are prone to any type of pollution and 70% of mussels in North America are either endangered or threatened.

Winter Fishing Regulations

Angler pulling fish out of ice hole

Anglers are encouraged to refer to the 2020-22 North Dakota Fishing Guide for winter fishing regulations.

Some winter fishing regulations include:

  • A maximum of four poles is legal for ice fishing. However, when fishing a water body where both open water and ice occur at the same time, an angler is allowed a maximum of four poles, of which no more than two poles can be used in open water.
  • Tip-ups are legal, and each tip-up is considered a single pole.
  • There is no restriction on the size of the hole in the ice while fishing. When a hole larger than 10 inches in diameter is left in the ice, the area in the immediate vicinity must be marked with a natural object.
  • It is only legal to release fish back into the water immediately after they are caught. Once a fish is held in a bucket or on a stringer, they can no longer be legally released in any water.
  • It is illegal to catch fish and transport them in water.
  • It is illegal to leave fish, including bait, behind on the ice.
  • Depositing or leaving any litter or other waste material on the ice or shore is illegal.
  • Any dressed fish to be transported, if frozen, must be packaged so that the fillets are separated and thus can be easily counted without thawing. Two fillets count as one fish.
  • The daily limit is a limit of fish taken from midnight to midnight, and no person may possess more than one day’s limit of fish while actively engaged in fishing. The possession limit is the maximum number of fish that an angler may have in his or her possession during a fishing trip of more than one day.
  • Anglers are reminded that two North Dakota lakes are closed to ice fishing. McDowell Dam in Burleigh County and Lightning Lake in McLean County are closed when the lakes ice over.

Advisory Board to Livestream Fall Meetings

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department Advisory Board will host its fall round of public meetings online this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Districts 1, 2, 7 and 8, which make up roughly the western half of the state, will have their combined meeting on Monday, Nov. 30. Districts 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the eastern part of the state, will follow on Tuesday, Dec. 1. Both meetings will start at 7 p.m. Central Time and conclude around 9 p.m.

The meetings will begin with department presentations, followed by questions and answers with select staff, including director Terry Steinwand and deputy director Scott Peterson.

Outdoor enthusiasts are invited to this public livestream event by visiting the Game and Fish website on the days of the meetings. Questions can be submitted in advance at, or via live chat during the event.

Wildlife Viewing Devices on Private Land

Outdoor recreationists who install devices for viewing wildlife on private land should be aware of a state law that was passed during the 2019 legislative session.

The law requires an individual who enters private property and installs a device for observing, recording or photographing wildlife to receive written permission from the landowner. Otherwise, the device must be identified with a permanently affixed metal or plastic tag with either a registration number issued by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, or the individual’s name, address and telephone number.

An equipment registration number can be generated by visiting “Buy and Apply” at the Game and Fish website. One registration number will be issued that can be used on all equipment that requires identification.

The equipment registration number does not expire.

Darkhouse Spearfishing Registration

Two women darkhouse spearfishing

North Dakota’s darkhouse spearfishing season opens whenever ice-up occurs. The season extends through March 15. Legal fish are northern pike and nongame species.

Darkhouse spearing is allowed for all residents with a valid fishing license and for residents under age 16. Nonresidents may darkhouse spearfish in North Dakota if they are from states that offer the same privilege for North Dakota residents.

Individuals who are required to possess the needed valid fishing license to participate in darkhouse spearfishing must register with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department prior to participating. Registration is available online.

All waters open to hook and line fishing are open to darkhouse spearing except: Lake Audubon, East Park Lake and West Park Lake, all McLean County; Heckers Lake, Sheridan County; Larimore Dam, Grand Forks County; McClusky Canal; New Johns Lake, Burleigh County; Red Willow Lake, Griggs County; Wood Lake, Benson County; Lake Ashtabula, Barnes and Griggs counties; and Whitman Dam, Nelson County.

Anglers should refer to the 2020-22 North Dakota Fishing Guide for more information.

Order 2021 OUTDOORS Calendars

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is taking orders for its North Dakota OUTDOORS calendar, the source for all hunting season and application dates for 2021. Along with outstanding color photographs of North Dakota wildlife and scenery, it also includes sunrise-sunset times and moon phases.

Order online or send $3 for each, plus $1 postage, to: Calendar, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095. Be sure to include a three-line return address with your order, or the post office may not deliver our return mailing.

The calendar is the North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine’s December issue, so current subscribers will automatically receive it in the mail.

Dead Deer Permit Needed

North Dakota Game and Fish Department enforcement personnel are issuing a reminder that a permit is required before taking possession of a dead deer found near a road or in a field. Only shed antlers can be possessed without a permit.

Permits to possess are free and available from game wardens and local law enforcement offices.

Staff Notes

Cayla Bendel

Cayla Bendel of Lakeville, Minn., was hired as the Game and Fish Department’s R3 coordinator. Bendel graduated from the University of Minnesota Crookston with a Bachelor of Science degree in natural resource management, with a minor in communications. She also earned a Master of Science in range science from North Dakota State University.