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New electronic posting, disease concerns mark North Dakota deer opener

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Mule deer and hunter

A herd of mule deer crosses a hunter's path in the Badlands south of Medora.

Deer hunters beginning their season Friday have a new tool with North Dakota's electronic land posting map, something one of the system's main supporters already has seen at use.

"On my doorstep this weekend, there were two guys from Mississippi that had used it and were quite impressed with it," said Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, who helped spearhead electronic land posting in the Legislature.

By a July deadline, 7,000 landowners had posted 3.75 million acres around North Dakota.

New electronic posting laws took effect Aug. 1, making electronic posting equal to physical posting and penalties, and defining a "fence." The law allows only lawful hunters and anglers to access fenced, unposted land, for hunting and fishing activities only. 

Opening day

North Dakota's 16½-day deer gun season opens at noon on Friday, with 72,200 licenses made available this year, the sixth straight year of an increase and the most licenses in 10 years.

The state Game and Fish Department has offered refunds to nearly 30,000 hunters due to an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.

And hunters in western and central North Dakota are asked to drop off deer heads at collection sites for testing for chronic wasting disease. A record 18 cases were confirmed last fall, out of 44 since the first was detected in 2009.

Deer hunters in 2020 had 68% success, with 39,322 deer taken, according to Game and Fish.

Hunters preparing meat for processing should avoid nicking any internal organs as they field dress the deer, and rinse the carcass well when done, said Mack Ternes, co-owner of 3Be Meats in Bismarck.

“The No. 1 thing is keep it as cool as you can,” Ternes said.

The meat when taken to a commercial processor must be accompanied by a carcass tag, which will be returned to the hunter after processing.

Most of the venison that enters 3Be Meats will be used for sausage, Ternes said.

“We do quite a bit of jerky and snack sticks too,” he said. “Everybody has their favorites.”

'Bridging that gap'

The electronic posting system is getting its first use in the field this fall, after which an interim legislative committee will evaluate the system to make recommendations to the 2023 Legislature. 

Erbele

Erbele

"The ultimate goal has always been to keep bridging that gap between landowners and sportsmen and create a communication tool that works for both parties, and I think we're arriving at that," said Erbele, a rancher.

Game and Fish Assistant Wildlife Division Chief Bill Haase said he hasn’t received any complaints from hunters about the system. Only one trespassing complaint has been generated from electronically posted land this fall.

Penalties under the new law include a $250 noncriminal offense for hunters, anglers and others trespassing on posted land, and Class A and Class B misdemeanors for more serious trespassing scenarios, such as property damage or refusal to leave. The maximum punishment for a Class B misdemeanor is about a month in jail and a $1,500 fine; for an A misdemeanor it's about a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

The deer gun season likely will give department officials a better idea of how the system is working for landowners and hunters, Haase said.

“Up to this point we’re happy with how things have gone,” he said.

Electronically posted land is viewable at gf.nd.gov/maps/map-service-apps. Printed maps are available from the Game and Fish Department. Landowners may still post with signs, but the practice can be onerous.

The posting has "really good representation from every county in the state," Game and Fish Business Operations Manager Brian Hosek said.

A point of contact for land access is "super valuable" for hunters, he said.

"That's where the value of electronic posting comes in. It's kind of making that connection between hunters and landowners," Hosek said.

North Dakota is the first state to make electronic posting available for private land, according to the governor's office.

The system came with a learning curve and “some of the typical gripes,” North Dakota Wildlife Federation Executive Director John Bradley said.

Hunters have to remember to check for physical as well as electronic posting, but they appreciate having landowner names and contact information at their fingertips.

“Overall it’s been adopted fairly well by sportsmen,” Bradley said.

The success of the system will depend on “landowners embracing it and sportsmen using it,” he said.

Game and Fish has had a lot of calls with questions about the system, Hosek said. Information is available at bit.ly/3nUUOP1.

Since North Dakota's electronic posting system went up, outdoors GPS app onX has absorbed the state's data into its system.

More than 15,000 hunters have used the North Dakota electronically posted layer of the app so far this year, according to onX Midwest Marketing Manager Ben Brettingen.

"As deer season is one of the busiest times of the year for hunters in North Dakota, we expect that number to increase dramatically. We also expect the number of users to increase as we continue our education campaigns around the layer," he said.

OnX over the years had compiled public and private landownership data in North Dakota, reaching out county by county, Brettingen said.

OnX is working with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to identify and provide access to areas of public land surrounded by private land, not connected by roads or water.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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