Doug Leier, Published January 10 2012
Leier: Meeting season a good time to get valuable outdoors informationFargo - While many hunters and anglers associate spring and summer with fishing season and fall with hunting season, truth be told, in North Dakota fishing is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days each year.
Another “season” of sorts that begins slowly in late fall and picks up steam through and well into the spring thaw, is the meeting and banquet season.
From local rod, gun and wildlife club annual meetings to regional banquets sponsored by national organizations, I’d bet dollars to donuts there’s a banquet or annual gathering somewhere in North Dakota weekend from here through April. It’s an opportunity for like-minded individuals to gather and often raise money for the next year’s habitat, youth or other outdoor events.
Along the way, participants share stories of the past year and make plans for the future.
Another important tradition of the “off” season is the North Dakota Game and Fish Department district advisory board meetings, held each fall just after deer gun season and again in early spring. These meetings provide hunters, anglers, landowners and others a chance to meet face-to-face with Game and Fish staff, to share information and concerns.
Recent advisory board meetings were dominated by discussions on deer, pheasants and fishing. While each meeting had its local issues, everything from muskrats to mountain lions, the 2011 deer season was on the minds of many.
In 2011, the Game and Fish Department allocated less than 110,000 deer licenses, down from more than 149,000 in 2008. The reasons for a declining deer population are many and hunters are concerned about winter weather, loss of Conservation Reserve Program grasslands, archery success rate, and other mortality factors such as predators.
It’s safe to say that when the 2012 deer applications are available, a further reduction in deer licenses is likely.
Pheasant hunting was not as widespread of a topic, though hunters and Game and Fish biologists are certainly concerned about the loss of more than a million acres of CRP habitat in the last five years, with another 800,000-plus acres scheduled to come out of the program in 2012. On top that, severe winters have reduced pheasant numbers across the state. The mild start to this winter at least provides some hope for less winter mortality than the past three years.
Amid the concerns about deer and pheasants is a rather bright future for fish. When the new fishing regulations take effect April 1, Game and Fish is proposing to increase the daily limit on northern pike from three to five across the state.
With many new or expanding water bodies holding pike, many fisheries managers, and anglers agree that greater use of the pike resource is a good option.
As you enjoy the “meeting” season those are just a few of the topics likely come up ... along with inevitable stories of the “one that got away” last year.
Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at email@example.com
Leier’s blog can be found online