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Doug Leier, Published October 16 2012

Hunters should use extra caution due to dry fall

Fargo - A little over a year ago on a random early fall hunting trip, I pulled over to the side of the road near a wildlife management area and surveyed the scene, assessing the ground and field conditions.

While summer 2011 seemed like the wettest I had ever seen, by fall, things were starting to dry out to the point where you could pull into an approach or shallow ditch to park for a walk after pheasants or grouse and not worry about getting stuck.

Who would’ve guessed that one year later in October 2012, our field conditions across the state for the most part are in need of significant fall precipitation. So it goes for weather on the plains where during one 24-hour period in early October we went from mid-80s to snow in the air.

What’s interesting this year is that the early spring is corresponding to an early harvest and that should allow many farmers to spend more time in the field joining other hunters for pheasants, deer, ducks and geese.

From Fairmount to Crosby and Pembina to Marmarth, it will be a busy next few weeks in North Dakota’s rural countryside. With most hunting seasons open and producers still hauling crops, moving cattle and bringing home bales, road traffic is sure to be heavy at times.

In addition to hunters and harvest activities, country roads are also travel routes for rural parents and kids driving to and from an array of school activities.

The simple message is, be careful out there. That’s an important message more commonly associated with firearms safety this time of year, but it’s a good thought to carry while traveling to and from hunting spots as well.

With that in mind, the State Game and Fish Department reminds hunters to move to the right side of the road when topping a hill just in case another vehicle is coming from the other direction. If you see a combine, grain truck or other large vehicle coming down the road, pull as far to the right as you can, or better yet, turn into the nearest approach until the vehicle passes.

It’s also important to park vehicles in a manner that will not block a roadway, field approach or gate. When parking in a shallow ditch, avoid tall vegetation, as much of the state is still very dry. Catalytic converters get extremely hot and possibly could ignite a fire without the driver realizing the dangers of parking in a grassy ditch or field.

Unless we get significant rain or snow, the fire danger in North Dakota will likely remain high throughout the fall. While that doesn’t mean we have to curtail any activities unless the daily fire danger index is in the “extreme” category, we all need to be aware of the dry conditions.

Now that pheasant and turkey seasons are open, it’s the best time of year to get out and enjoy the variety of North Dakota’s outdoors. Just keep safety in mind when you’re out there.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com