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Cali Owings, Published October 14 2013

Archers get first shot at wild turkeys in Fargo

FARGO – By 6:15 a.m. Saturday, Brian Zastoupil was set up in his tree stand on a stretch of wooded property along the Red River in north Fargo watching, bow in hand, and waiting for sunrise.

He called it a “little slice of nirvana.”

Zastoupil was one of about 40 archers who had their first opportunity to hunt turkeys within Fargo city limits Saturday morning.

In June, the Fargo City Commission expanded the wildlife management program, which has provided for an urban deer hunt for several years, to also include turkeys.

Overall, opening weekend for the urban turkey hunt was not a huge draw for area hunters. Several of those eligible said they had not pursued turkeys within city limits this weekend, instead preferring North Dakota's pheasant opener or waiting for more favorable weather.

The in-town turkey season will run through sunset on Jan. 31.

The commission made the change after complaints about north Fargo neighborhoods being overrun by the birds last year.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials trapped 125 turkeys in Fargo last winter,

The city’s wildlife management program allows for 25 deer and 25 turkey permits along the Red River between 16th and 35th avenues north.

It also allows for 20 deer and 20 turkey permits in another area along the Red between 21st and 58th avenues south.

Allowing archers to hunt certain species is a “very effective tool when you have wildlife habitat in an urban environment,” said Randy Kreil, wildlife division chief for the state Game and Fish Department.

In North Dakota, there is also a turkey bow hunt in Bismarck and semi-urban hunt in Mandan at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Experiment Station, Kreil said.

A large population of wildlife within city limits can lead to other problems. For example, Kreil said a large population of mule deer in Rapid City, S.D., has attracted mountain lions into city limits.

Unlike many other cities, Fargo’s wildlife management program requires safety training for archers who want to participate.

Participants must also obtain a permit from the city and obtain a special archery license and tag from the state Game and Fish Department. They can hunt on private property within the designated regions, but must carry written permission from the property owner.

Fargo police Lt. Gene Anderson, who administered the safety program this summer, said there are fewer safety concerns with archers than with gun hunters.

At the end of the season in January, Anderson will collect surveys from those who participated about how many animals they saw and harvested.

That information can be used to track the success of the wildlife management program, which is up for renewal every year.

Zastoupil said the program is a good match between the city and responsible bow hunters. He likes to do his part to help control the deer and turkey population. The urban setting also has advantages.

“It’s a place to get out hunting, yet I don’t have to be that far from home,” he said.

Zastoupil became licensed to hunt for deer through the program in 2007 and has harvested about 10 deer since.

“I’m an opportunist,” he said before the hunt Saturday, hoping to take home a deer or a turkey.

He endured the wind and rain for a few hours in the tree, but didn’t harvest anything. He saw two deer, but it was too early in the morning to take a shot. He also spotted a buck, but the city only allows hunters to go after antlerless deer.

Archery, in general, he said is a “low odds thing, anyway.”

“I am not a trophy hunter,” he said. “I just enjoy being out in the wilds.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599