By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.
My years of experience and work as a biologist and former game warden usually give me a head start when I get questions on a variety of topics, but when I don’t know the answer, my first stop is the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.
Recently I was searching the website and ran across a section relating to the history of the agency and hunting and fishing in North Dakota, and thought it might be of interest to share a bit. The full link is here: https://gf.nd.gov/history.
- In 1909 a five-member Game and Fish Board of Control was created.
- State legislators passed a law for a game and fish commissioner to take over the duties of the board in 1929. Voters approved the measure in 1930, marking the beginning of the Game and Fish Department as we know it today.
- The deer harvest for 1941 was estimated at 2,890 animals. Hunters at the time claimed 1941 was one of the best big game seasons ever held.
- In 1941, the state’s deer population was estimated at 7,000-8,000 animals.
- The state’s first elk transplant took place in late winter 1942. The animals came from Wyoming and were released in the Killdeer Mountains.
- Pronghorn ranged over nearly all the state’s open prairies in the mid-1800s, but only about 225 pronghorn remained by 1925. The first hunting season of the 20th century was held in 1951.
- The first statewide archery season for deer was held in 1954. Game and Fish issued 1,119 licenses for that first season.
- Chinook salmon were introduced into Lake Sakakawea in 1976.
- Lake Tschida in Grant County was the “Walleye Capital of North Dakota” in 1961. Twenty-four of 25 fish over 10 pounds reported to the Whopper Club came from Tschida.
- In 1968, creel limits for walleye and sauger were removed on Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. The next year limits were reinstated, but an angler could still take eight walleye and eight sauger daily.
- With rising water levels, Devils Lake was stocked with fish in 1970-71. By 1972 people were catching fish for the first time in many years.
- The state legislature in 1977 passed the hunter safety bill, requiring all hunters born after December 31, 1961 to have taken a hunter safety course before they could purchase a license. The law took effect in 1979.
- The first North Dakota moose season was held in 1977 – Game and Fish issued 12 licenses that year.
- Department fisheries crews in 1980 made their first attempt to take eggs from chinook salmon during the fall run on Lake Sakakawea.
- In 1983 some state school lands were opened to public hunting access for the first time. Over the next four years almost all state school land was opened to walking public access.
Leier is a biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.
(Featured Photo: The Game & Fish Dept. effectively began in 1930, following a resolution by the state legislature and a vote by the citizens of the state on a related measure. NDG&F Photo)