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Public lands have specific regulations for all

Last week I wrote about the Game and Fish Department’s Private Land Open To Sportsmen program, which provides walk-in access to hunters on thousands of acres across the state. The PLOTS Guide, which features these walk-in tracts, also includes public land hunting access information, including more than 200 wildlife management areas totaling around 220,000 acres.

The department WMAs have specific rules and regulations to balance and reduce potential conflicts, which can and do occur when areas attract crowds, or people try to preempt space.

This time of year, one of the more applicable rules relates to placement of tree stands or ground blinds for deer hunting. The stands must be portable, and be identified with the owner’s name, city and telephone number, or a unique identification number issued by the department. All equipment left on a WMA overnight, including ground blinds, game cameras and traps must have this identification.

Owners can generate an equipment registration number in their account on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. You only need to do this once, and the registration number can be used on all equipment requiring identification.

I think most hunters are aware of these rules, yet it’s surprising how many tree stands and trail cameras – dozens per year – Game and Fish staff wind up removing because people don’t retrieve them by the Jan. 31 removal deadline.

Tree stands and ground blinds also do not preempt hunting rights of others in the vicinity, but certainly there’s a level of courtesy involved that says if you’re pheasant hunting and see someone sitting in a tree stand in the area, you give them a wide berth. The other side is someone in a tree stand on a public hunting area can’t expect they’ll have the area to themselves, which could include others putting up stands in nearby, or even someone sitting in your stand.

Here are some other WMA rules and regulations to remember. A complete listing of all regulations is available on the Game and Fish website.

– Motor vehicles – Unless otherwise designated, motorized vehicles are restricted to constructed roads, established trails and parking areas normally used by passenger cars.

– Firearms – Use of firearms is or course allowed, except in a reckless or indiscriminate manner, and as otherwise posted at public road entry points.

– Baiting – Placing bait to attract wildlife for any purpose is prohibited.

– Littering – As it is everywhere else in the state, littering is illegal.

– Commercial enterprise – Commercial enterprise is prohibited. Cropping, haying or grazing are allowed by permit only from the Game and Fish Department.

– Camping – Camping for longer than 10 consecutive days is prohibited. Some WMAs are closed to camping altogether, while others have further restrictions.

– Group activities – Group activities involving more than 25 people require a permit from the Game and Fish Department.

– Drones – Use of drones, or any unmanned radio-controlled aircraft, is prohibited unless authorized by the Game and Fish director.

Leier is a NDGF biologist and a Williston native. He began his career at Lostwood NWR and was a game warden in Bottineau.

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