By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.
My dad is proof of a couple different truths held when it comes to big game hunting in North Dakota. You don’t get drawn for a license if you don’t apply, and if you do apply, make sure you are prepared for the hunt in all aspects. Pretty fundamental.
In 2016 after more than 30 years of applying, dad drew a moose tag. At the age of 72, he had enough time to prepare, scout and hunt and successfully harvested a nice bull moose.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a level of success in “drawing” a tag. Going hunting and enjoying North Dakota outdoors during fall is a “success.” The moose is the icing on the cake.
So, if you want a chance at a moose, elk or bighorn sheep in North Dakota in 2017, the deadline to submit an application is March 22.
Year in and year out, I field many calls and emails about the odds of drawing a license. Regardless of the odds, I try to make sure that interested hunters are aware of the time and resources that are usually necessary to have a successful hunt.
Too often, I hear stories about people whose thrill of beating the odds and receiving one of these once-in-a-lifetime licenses turned to disappointment the following fall when the effort required for success was more than they expected.
Many hunters tend to equate these special big game hunts with deer hunting, because that’s what most of us know. With the exception of some landowners who live within certain moose and elk units, none of us get to hunt moose, elk or sheep more than once. We don’t get to go the first time, learn on the go, then come back much better prepared the next time we get the same license.
To make a “big three” hunt truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a potential hunter needs to be willing to devote considerable time and energy. Many hunters do just that, making pre-season trips to their unit, visiting with landowners to line up potential places to hunt and allotting plenty of potential hunting time.
Because of that, success rates for North Dakota sheep and moose hunters are high, and elk success is better than in many other states.
My point in all of this is to help potential applicants understand they need to be willing to prepare for a long and difficult hunt. Success is not just measured in filling a tag. As with most things in life, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
Each year, I’m sure many people apply for moose, elk or bighorn sheep licenses who don’t consider at all if they’ll have time to commit to pre-hunt scouting and take leave from work and put time in during the hunt.
I’m not trying to scare people away from applying for one of these licenses, but it is important to honestly assess your own situation and ask yourself if you’re ready for the commitment, should you draw one of the big three.
And even then, the only guarantee is that receiving a license means you have the opportunity to hunt. The rest is like the weather. We try to predict it, but the variables are usually so complex you never know exactly how it’s going to pan out, but I can attest for one veteran hunter, it all paid off in the end. Good work Dad.
More details on the “big three” seasons, and online applications, are available at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.