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2023 Enforcement Division Review

By Chief Game Warden Scott Winkelman

Game warden checking an hunter's harvest

In our mission to protect and preserve North Dakota’s natural resources, while lending guidance and aid to those who enjoy the outdoors, 2023 was a good year.

One of the standout accomplishments of our enforcement division in 2023 was our swift and effective response to multiple search and rescue operations. In the face of challenging weather conditions and diverse terrains, our officers demonstrated exceptional skill and commitment to ensuring the safety of outdoor enthusiasts. Their efforts undoubtedly saved lives and reinforced our division’s reputation for excellence in emergency response.

Behind the scenes, our enforcement division undertook and successfully concluded several large, long-term investigations, targeting illegal activities that posed a threat to North Dakota’s wildlife and ecosystems. The meticulous efforts of our officers led to the apprehension of individuals involved in wildlife trafficking, poaching and other illicit activities. These victories not only uphold the principles of conservation but also send a clear message that illegal actions will not go unpunished.

Recognizing the vital role of a well-trained and motivated team, we implemented strategies to enhance recruitment and retention. We focused on creating a supportive and rewarding work environment, providing ongoing training opportunities, and fostering a strong sense of camaraderie among officers. These efforts resulted in a more robust and resilient team, ready to face the challenges of protecting North Dakota’s natural resources.

As I look back on the accomplishments of our enforcement division in 2023, it’s evident that the dedication and hard work of our team left an indelible mark on the conservation efforts of North Dakota. The multiple successful search and rescue operations, the completion of complex investigations, and the improvements in recruitment and retention collectively contribute to a legacy of excellence that will undoubtedly continue in the years to come. The North Dakota Game and Fish enforcement division remains steadfast in its commitment to safeguarding the state’s wildlife and preserving its natural beauty for future generations.

2023 Summary of Violations

2023 Summary of Violations
Illegal taking/possession of big game37
Failure to wear fluorescent orange14
Tagging violations30
CWD violations16
Killing wrong species or sex10
Shining big game15
Other big game violations29
Using gun able to hold more than 3 shells70
Hunting before/after legal hours12
Illegal possession/taking10
Exceeding limit51
Failure to leave identification or sex of game66
Killing wrong sex or species6
Wanton waste32
Other small game violations76
Use of unlicensed or unnumbered boat122
Failure to display boat registration164
Operating without lights at night27
Inadequate number of PFDs215
Water skiing violations10
Reckless or negligent operation16
Operating vessel under influence/intoxicated5
Other boating violations175
Exceeding limit109
Fishing in closed/restricted area1
Fishing with illegal bait11
Paddlefish violations3
ANS violations98
Other fishing violations130
Furbearer violations29
Use of motor vehicle off established trail39
Hunting on posted land without permission49
Aid in concealment of unlawful game3
Loaded firearm in motor vehicle37
440-yard violation9
Hunting in unharvested field6
Other general violations20
Hunting/fishing/trapping without proper license250
Failure to carry license on person289
Misrepresentation on license or application21
Other licensing violations15
Failure to obey posted regulations26
Tree stand violations9
Possession of glass beverage containers6
Camping violations1
Prohibited use of motor vehicles5
PLOTS access violations17
Other WMA/refuge violations3
Possession of controlled substance24
Possession of drug paraphernalia20
Minor in possession20
Criminal trespass63
Other miscellaneous11
Commercial violations11
Grand Total2,548


(An incident is defined as any situation that requires a response from a game warden. It does not have to be a crime. The situation could be, for example, a stranded angler.)

  • Ramsey – 197
  • Barnes– 192
  • Williams – 170
  • McLean – 165
  • McKenzie - 153
  • Cass - 149
  • Mountrail - 144
  • Burleigh - 137
  • Ward - 132
  • Stark - 122
  • Total - 3,229


  • Ramsey - 262
  • Williams - 141
  • Benson - 131
  • Barnes- 129
  • Mountrail - 114
  • Burleigh - 104
  • McKenzie - 98
  • Logan - 77
  • Stark - 77
  • McLean - 74
  • Total - 2,548

Field Contacts

“In 2023, our wardens made 53,411 field contacts, which is a significant number because it shows that we are reaching a lot of people recreating in the field or on the water. A field contact is any time one of our wardens interacts with someone in the field while checking their license, bag limit, whatever. These interactions allow our wardens to answer questions and point people in the right direction. As I’ve said before, it’s a friendly interaction and is good all around.” - Scott Winkelman, Chief Warden

Staff Awards

Tofteland Named Wildlife Officer of the Year

Tofteland Named Wildlife Officer of the Year

Jonathan Tofteland, North Dakota Game and Fish Department district game warden in Bottineau, is the state’s 2023 Wildlife Officer of the Year. Tofteland was honored by Shikar-Safari Club International, a private conservation organization that annually recognizes outstanding wildlife officers in each state.

In a nomination letter sent to Shikar-Safari, chief warden Scott Winkelman said Tofteland’s district includes the Lake Metigoshe area along with the rest of Bottineau County and the Turtle Mountains.

“Warden Tofteland patrols by vehicle, boat, ATV and snowmobile to accomplish his enforcement goals in all seasons. He has assumed extra duties, such as taser instructor, and has proven his dedication to his chosen profession by serving as treasurer on the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Museum board,” Winkelman said. “He has a tremendous grasp of the area within his district, the landowners therein and the natural resources that he is sworn to protect. Warden Tofteland is always willing to assist neighboring wardens with any investigations.”

Mike Sedlacek

Sedlacek Earns Boating Officer Award

In addition, warden Mike Sedlacek, of Fargo was named North Dakota’s Boating Officer of the Year. His district includes rivers, lakes and reservoirs in eastern North Dakota. Chief game warden Scott Winkelman said warden Sedlacek is experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated, makes good decisions and serves the citizens in an outstanding manner.

Conner Folkers

Turkey Federation Names Schmidt Top Warden

Erik Schmidt, North Dakota Game and Fish Department district game warden, Linton, was named the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Wildlife Officer of the Year for 2023. Scott Winkelman, Department chief warden, said Schmidt is well-deserving of the award as he is a dedicated warden and is unwavering in his efforts to safeguard North Dakota’s natural resources and those people who participate in the outdoors.