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Matters of Opinion

Authors and Contributors

Terry Steinwand

We have another year behind us, with the new bringing us the coldest winter weather so far.

Although, it’s all relative when it comes to living on the Northern Plains. Think back to one year ago when we not only had cold temperatures, but an accumulation of about 50 inches of snow in a six-week period.

I’d love to write this article and say that hunting in North Dakota was the best it’s ever been in 2017, but if you went upland bird hunting this past fall you’d know that was far from the truth.

We went into spring relatively optimistic about a good pheasant hatch, even though nesting habitat had decreased. Even so, biologists felt with good spring weather the reproduction should have been adequate to provide at least an average hunt.

Actually, the spring/early summer conditions were good for the hatch, but along came drought conditions that proved to be an extreme challenge not only for wildlife, but farmers, ranchers and anyone or anything that depends on the landscape for survival.

Turns out, survival of upland chicks was dismal. As most know, chicks are highly dependent on bugs as a food source for the first few weeks of life. If you spent anytime outside this past summer you likely noticed that bug production was next to nothing and therefore survival of upland bird chicks followed suit.

As always, there were some pockets of good pheasant and grouse production, but they weren’t plentiful.

The past year finally brought us a little increase in deer numbers, which to some was unexpected given the harsh winter conditions, however brief those conditions were in relative terms.

Yet, once again, there were a large number of disappointed and disgruntled deer gun applicants, which is understandable. I’ve stated a number of times there are only two main holidays in North Dakota – Christmas and the opener of the deer gun hunting season. It’s an important activity and tradition in North Dakota and one the Game and Fish Department doesn’t take lightly.

I’ve said this often, but increasing the state’s deer population to the point where we can give at the least the majority of applicants a reasonable chance to hunt deer will take habitat. It means cover during the fawning season and cover in winter to help animals buffer the effects of cold and snow.

On the positive side, those who were fortunate to receive a deer gun license appeared to have had good success. We don’t have our hunting season survey results completed yet, but anecdotally the reports were good.

There’s one activity I haven’t touched on yet and that’s fishing. Once again, there was phenomenal fishing across the state thanks in part to Mother Nature. While I didn’t fish nearly as much as I would have liked, I did have some good success when I got out.

While we’re at the end of North Dakota’s major hunting seasons for another year, there’s still plenty of outdoor activities in which to participate. Predator hunting, bird watching, cross country skiing, and just being out in the wonderful outdoors of North Dakota that we call home.

While the winter weather can be brutal at times, and Mother Nature can throw us the drought curveball every so often, we live here because we want to, because of all of the wonderful opportunities available. All you have to do is get out and enjoy them.