When the state's deer gun season opens Friday there will be thousands of hunters in the field, many of them carrying on a long-standing family tradition. A great many people with roots in North Dakota grew up with hunting. Most can recall their first deer or first bird on the wing. Many will remember this season as well, but in a much different way.
Many hunters will find that this deer season will be very different for several reasons. Although the number of deer in the state may be above average by historical standards, surveys show deer numbers are on the decline. In addition, an outbreak of epizootic hemmorhagic disease has killed an unknown number of deer, thought to be mostly whitetails, in 11 deer gun units in the west.
Energy development has vastly changed the look of the land, particularly in the western portion of the state. An increasing number of people, vehicles and roads has changed the landscape in many areas from prime hunting land to areas hunters now avoid. As hunters will soon see, if they haven't already, is that numerous rural roads remain impassable due to standing water. There's fewer Conservation Reserve Program acres too, some of which were useable deer habitat.
Kim Fundingsland is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News.
Certainly this will be a season out of the ordinary. I wonder what future seasons will bring? I wonder who is the voice for our wildlife and our heritage and our land? I wonder if we are doing the best we can? I wonder what hunting in North Dakota will be like in the coming years? I don't like thinking about it. Not all change is all good.
It is amidst these changes that deer hunters will seek their quarry in the days ahead. Yes, there will be an abundance of good times in the field as hunters share experiences and poke some good natured fun at each other. There will be deer harvested too, and processors will soon be turning out thousands of rings of deer sausage.
For deer hunters, that's as good as it gets. Traditions and heritage die hard.