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Authors and Contributors
Greg Freeman

CWD Test Results

Tissue sample

With most chronic wasting disease testing completed, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reports 18 deer tested positive during the 2020 hunting season.

Fourteen were from hunting unit 3F2, two were from unit 3A1 and one was from unit 4B. A white-tailed deer harvested in unit 3A2 also tested positive and was the first detection in the unit.

CWD is a fatal disease of deer, moose and elk that can cause long-term population declines as infection rates climb.

The estimated infection rates in unit 3F2 were 5.1% in mule deer and 2.2% in whitetail deer. It was less than 2% in other positive units. Approximately 7% of hunters turned in heads for testing in units where the Department was focusing surveillance efforts.

Game and Fish will use its 2020 surveillance data to guide it’s CWD management strategy moving forward. 

Spring Light Goose Conservation Order

Light Geese

North Dakota’s spring light goose conservation order opens February 20 and continues through May 9.

Residents must have a valid current season 2020-21 (valid through March 31) or 2021-22 (required April 1) combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license. The 2021-22 license is available for purchase beginning March 15.

Nonresidents need a 2021 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 at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, or by calling 800-406-6409.

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 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.

Big Three Lottery

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep applications must be submitted online before midnight March 24.

To apply online. Paper applications are not available.

Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

In 2020, more than 24,000 people applied for the 470 moose licenses; 21,069 applied for the 523 elk licenses; and 16,935 applied for the 5 bighorn sheep licenses.

Legislation on Game and Fish Website

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department continues to track hunting and fishing issues during the 2021 legislative session.

Interested outdoor enthusiasts can follow proposed outdoors-related bills online.

A brief description of each bill will be included. To view each bill in its entirety, click on the linked bill number.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

Canada Geese

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 165,000 Canada geese in the state.

Andy Dinges, Department migratory game bird biologist, said an estimated 67,200 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River from MacLean Bottoms WMA south of Bismarck to Garrison Dam. An additional 65,100 Canada geese were observed on the lower portion of Lake Sakakawea, which still had substantial open water during this year’s survey. Nelson Lake in Oliver County was also holding 13,600 Canada geese and the remainder were scattered throughout the state in areas with open water.

Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 34,200 mallards were tallied statewide. Most were observed on Lake Sakakawea and on Nelson Lake.

“We’ve had an unusually mild winter with little snow accumulation. Availability of food should have been good and overall wintering conditions were excellent,” he said.

The first large waves of migrating waterfowl, according to Dinges, occurred during the last two weeks in October.

“After that short cold spell, above average temperatures, with little snow accumulation, allowed birds to remain in the state on the Missouri River System up until the survey date,” he said. “In addition, several reservoirs in the state that are typically frozen by late November had small pockets of open water and were still holding some birds.”

The 10-year average (2011-20) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 107,400 Canada geese and 21,800 mallards.

All states participate in the midwinter survey during the same time frame to reduce the possibility of counting birds more than once.

2021 North Dakota OUTDOORS Calendar Available

The 2021 North Dakota OUTDOORS calendar is available for ordering online at the state Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

The calendar features outstanding color photographs of North Dakota wildlife and scenery, and includes season opening and application deadline dates, sunrise-sunset times and moon phases.

Calendars are also available via mail order. Send $3 for each, plus $1 postage, to: Calendar, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095.

The calendar is the North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine’s December issue, so current subscribers should have already received it in the mail.

Gear on WMAs

Hunters are reminded that tree stands, blinds, steps and other personal items such as cameras, must be removed from all wildlife management areas by Jan. 31.

Items not removed by Jan. 31 are considered abandoned property and are subject to removal and confiscation by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Nonresident Any-deer Bow Licenses

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will have 780 any-deer bow licenses available to nonresidents in 2021.

Applicants can apply online beginning March 15 on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. The deadline for applying is April 15.

Up to five hunters can apply together as a party. A lottery will be held if more applications are received than licenses available. A total of 1,486 people applied in 2020.

The number of nonresident any-deer bow licenses available is 15% of the previous year’s mule deer gun license allocation.

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 from the ice 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.

Earth Day Patch Contest

The state Game and Fish Department’s annual Earth Day awareness campaign is accepting entries for design of a 2021 Earth Day patch. North Dakota students ages 6-18 are eligible to participate. The deadline for submitting 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.

Winter Anglers Need to Clean Up Ice

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds winter anglers to clean up the ice after fishing. This not only applies to trash, but fish as well.

It is not only unsightly, but it is illegal to leave fish, including minnows used for bait, behind on the ice. According to state fishing regulations, when a fish is caught, anglers must either immediately release the fish unharmed, or reduce them to their daily possession.

It is common practice for some anglers to fillet fish on the ice, which is allowed, as long as fish entrails and other parts are removed from the ice and properly disposed of at home.

In addition, all trash, including aluminum cans, cigarette butts and Styrofoam containers, must be packed out and taken home.

Watchable Wildlife Checkoff

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.

To learn more about Watchable Wildlife program activities online.

Staff Notes

Grant Kapaun

Kapaun Hired as ANS Biologist

Grant Kapaun was hired this winter as the aquatic nuisance species biologist in Jamestown. Kapaun, who has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Dakota, spent the last year working with the Game and Fish Department’s fisheries development program.

Amber Bowers

Bowers Named Administrative Assistant

Amber Bowers of Mandan was hired as the conservation and communications division administrative assistant in December.

Bowers graduated from Dakota College at Bottineau with a degree in business and marketing.