By John Bradley
Although most hunters respect the land, property, and wildlife they are hunting, there are always a few bad actors who do not and in the process give all hunters a bad name. Fall is the ideal time to remind hunters and all outdoor recreationists to be good stewards of the land and respect both public and private property.
Every hunting season, we hear reports of vandalism in Wildlife Management Areas, hunters driving off road, illegal trespassing, hunters being shot over, littering, and livestock being shot. With numerous hunting seasons already in progress, it is important that everyone to be better stewards of the land. Below are just a few of the things that hunters and all outdoor recreationists should be aware of when enjoying North Dakota’s outdoors:
• Know the rules and regulations- Know the hunting regulations for the species you are pursuing. Consult PLOTS, national grasslands, and refuge maps and brochures for specific rules including: driving on roads, parking areas, no shooting zones, walk-in only areas, camping, number of hunters allowed, game retrieval, etc. Go to the appropriate agency website or local office for information.
• Ask for permission to hunt- North Dakota law requires permission for all hunting on posted land. Be courteous to the landowner when asking for permission.
• Know where you are located- Whether you are hunting public land, private land, or land enrolled in an access program such as PLOTS, it is every hunter’s responsibility to know where they are to avoid trespassing. Maps are readily available, as are GPS chips and cell phone apps to aid in orientation.
• Unharvested crop- avoid hunting, walking or driving in fields that have not been harvested yet. Remember that in North Dakota, hunting standing crop is illegal without the owner’s consent.
• Littering- not only is littering lazy and unsightly, it is against the law. Pack it in, pack it out.
• Leave gates as you find them- If a gate is closed, close it behind you. If it is obviously open (pulled all the way back to the fence), leave it open. If you are unsure, contact the landowner or public land agency.
• Know your target and beyond- Hunters must be sure of what they are shooting at (species and sex), and know what lies beyond their target (houses, outbuildings, livestock, vehicles, other hunters).
• Park vehicles considerately- Find a designated parking area or an approach that is clearly not in the way of farmers moving equipment.
• Avoid driving on muddy roads- Unless it is a well-graveled road, walk in.
• Avoid ridge driving and driving to overlooks- Not only is this a poor strategy of finding game, it is considered as driving off road if it is not already an established trail.
• Driving off road- While hunting on private property, a person may not drive off established roads or trails without landowner permission. Off-road travel on public land, including game retrieval, is prohibited unless designated as open. Consult appropriate land agency or land maps for specifics.
Remember that the fall is a very busy time for landowners. Along with late harvest, cattle and other livestock are being moved from their summer and fall pastures and are often brought near the home site for winter feeding and care. Please use common sense and respect when around these activities.
Lastly, hunters need to police our own ranks. Don’t hesitate to report violations. Hunters can report any hunting and fishing, trespassing, vandalism, or other criminal activity observed by calling the Report All Poachers (RAP) line at 1-800-472-2121. It is a toll-free number where one can report all game and fish violations. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward for providing information that leads to a conviction. If you see hunters behaving badly or something else suspicious, make the call. Don’t let a few bad actors sully the name of hunters everywhere.
Stay safe, shoot straight, and enjoy your time in the field this fall!
John Bradley is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation and a Dakota Edge Outdoors Contributing Writer.
As hunters take to the field, they should be mindful of their actions, and observe and report illegal behavior. DEO Photo by Nick Simonson.