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Doug Leier, Published March 19 2013

Leier: It's never too early to think ahead

Fargo - While it feels like spring should soon begin taking hold across North Dakota, the fact of the matter is you’d be really depressed if you counted how many days it is until Fourth of July, or even the start of school in August, and we’re not even into April yet. It’s a testament to how slowly time arrives and how quickly it fades into the rear-view mirror. The point is it’s never too soon to think ahead, whether it’s summer fishing or fall hunting.

Right now is as good as any to spend a few evenings putting initial plans together for your 2013 outdoor adventures.

First things first. April 1 is a new licensing year for fishing licenses, small game or your combination license, so even if you’re not planning to fish soon, take care of the paperwork now by logging on to the Game and Fish Department website to purchase and print off the 2013-14 licenses.

Next, if you plan on hunting snow geese in the spring or ducks, geese, mourning doves or sandhill cranes next fall, you’re going to need a new Harvest Information Program or HIP number. Call (888) 634-4798 and get the registration process completed. You can also accomplish this at the Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.

You might also begin to check the opening dates for 2013. If opening pheasant, duck or deer seasons are traditional vacations, highlight them on your calendar. The waterfowl season won’t be locked until later this summer. However, the prospective youth opener is Sept. 14, the early resident Sept. 21 and the full season for all hunters including non-residents is Sept. 28.

Furthermore, if you have friends or family planning on hunting trips, keep in mind this year the pheasant season opener is tentatively planned for Oct. 12. If you’ve ever wondered how the pheasant opener is set, the Game and Fish Department’s standardized opening date is the second Saturday in October, which has a range of dates from the 8th through the 14th.

June 5 is a big day even if nothing officially opens, as it’s the deadline for deer applications. Don’t look for applications online or in hard copy until the first weeks of May. The standardized date for deer gun season is the Friday before Nov. 11, which falls on the 8th this year. By state law, all big-game hunting seasons must open at noon on a Friday. Calendar dates are set by governor’s proclamation.

Opening dates may seem a little trivial right now, but to hunters planning a vacation, mixing up the dates can cause headaches that last for months.

One last bit of advice: If you or somebody you know has never experienced the first-hand thrill of our spring bird migration, take an afternoon and get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of spring. Seeing million-bird flocks of snow geese or hearing the peaceful call of a meadowlark are unique opportunities, only available outdoors.

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