BOTTINEAU - Dakota College of Bottineau has a tradition of producing outdoor professionals, including game wardens and fish and wildlife biologists. Now a student chapter of a Fish and Wildlife Club is undergoing a rebirth. Club activities had fallen off in recent years but are getting under way in earnest once again.
Chris Evans, a student from Maryland who is enrolled at Dakota College, saw the need for a viable Fish and Wildlife Club and is doing his part to rejuvenate the club.
"It seems like the Wildlife Club here had gone down in the last couple of years, so we are just trying to get it back up and get the community going with us again," said Evans, who serves as club president. "The town, (and) the Bottineau Wildlife Club, have been totally supportive. It is really nice to have their support."
A participant signs up for an ice fishing derby held at Lake Metigoshe Jan. 23. The tourney was a fundraising event for the Dakota College of Bottineau Fish and Wildlife Club. At center is Chris Evans, club president.
A student Fish and Wildlife Club is not only a natural for aspiring wildlife professionals, but can be an important asset to educational opportunities. Ken Cabarle, associate professor and Fish and Wildlife Club advisor, says several plans are in the works that will give students hands-on experience in their future professions.
"We have scheduled a spring ecology experience at Wind Cave National Park," said Cabarle. "My intent is to get the program numbers back up as much as we can. What we do here is mainly training people to go into careers in fish and wildlife management, become a game warden or a wildlife biologist."
For 38 years, the institution's wildlife science program was influenced by longtime professor Alan Aufforth. Aufforth retired a year ago. Cabarle has eagerly stepped into the job, hoping to continue with the enthusiasm that Aufforth brought to the program.
"Students will know for sure if they want to be a biologist or a warden. They'll know because we get them hand-on experience," said Cabarle. "That's a key to the program, getting out there. That's what we do the most, and the kids seem to love it."
Student emphasis on strengthening the Fish and Wildlife Club may play an important role in the hands-on aspect of wildlife science programs at Dakota College. The club held an ice fishing derby at Lake Metigoshe Jan. 23. It was a start toward fundraising to help defray some of the costs of excursions like the once scheduled for Wind Cave.
"This is one of the first things we've done," explained Evans. "This is kind of a trial thing. We'll see how it goes. So far it seems pretty good. At Wind Cave, one day we'll be working in the forensic wildlife lab. We'll work with big game biologists. It will be a good experience for us."
About 20 ice fishermen had signed up for the derby by late morning of the event. It was an ideal day for ice fishing. Temperatures were in the mid-20s under sunny skies and minimal wind.
Dustin Wall of Bottineau was one of the participants who enjoyed early success in the derby. Wall hooked into a large crappie, a first for him from Lake Metigoshe.
"Actually, I wasn't paying much attention," admitted Wall. "I was trying to get holes drilled. The bobber went down the first time and I missed it. I didn't think I'd get another chance, but I threw the line back down there and it grabbed it. I love fishing, but that's the first crappie I've ever caught up here."
Not far away, Cabarle was seated on an overturned bucket, working two lines through 8-inch holes in the ice. He had two northern pike and one perch lying on the ice and had released a few small perch. He was fishing, but his mind was very much on his students who were conducting the fundraising event.
"This is a way to get the student Fish and Wildlife Club up and running again and to put a few dollars into the coffers," remarked Cabarle. "We do summer internships. A lot of the kids work for Game and Fish at Riverdale. Some are doing summer internships at state parks. We help them get their foot in the door. That's what we do the most, and the kids seem to love it."
Dakota College is a two-year institution, but through what is called a "three and one" program in participation with Valley City State University, students can actually remain on campus at Dakota College for three years.
"They do an additional third year as a Valley City student but they stay at Dakota College," explained Cabarle. "The fourth year they go to Valley City and finish the program. It's been pretty successful. We have a great relationship with them, and they have a great fish and wildlife program. We also have students who will go down and join the Minot State criminal justice department."
A 5-pound, 12-ounce northern pike caught by Joe Kjelshus was the largest fish taken during the derby. The biggest walleye weighed exactly 1 pound, caught by Rod Sather. Dustin Wall had the distinction of catching both the largest perch and largest crappie. Wall's winning perch was 7 ounces, while his crappie weighed 11 ounces. It was the only crappie caught during the event.
Lake Metigoshe has a reputation as one of the state's finest bluegill fisheries. Several were caught during the tournament. There was a three-way tie atop the leaderboard as Layton Peters, Nathan Dean and Chris Mertz all hooked 7-ounce bluegills.
"Most of the winnings were donated back to the club, which will really help out with our future events," said an appreciative Evans.
All of the fishermen were from the Bottineau area.