The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department is holding a "Play in Our Backyard" Geocaching Contest over the next 12 months and participants can win free overnight stays in cabins, yurts and campgrounds if successful in their search for cleverly hidden caches in North Dakota State Parks.
Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which players use Global Positioning System devices to find hidden containers with unique contents. North Dakota State Parks have 35 geocaches located within their boundaries. Since Sept. 1, 2011, each participating park has a special contest cache. Each container has a sticker that geocachers can place on their official entry form, proving they found the cache. Prizes will be awarded to those participants who first mail in their entry forms showing they have found all the caches. There will be five first-place winners, 10 second-place and 15 third-place. Geocachers must also have a www.geocaching.com account and log their visits for all of the contest caches. The contest ends Sept. 4, 2012.
Contest rules and entry forms are available on-line or by contacting the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department at 328-5357.
Minot Gun Club fall hours in effect
The Minot Gun Club has switched from summer to fall hours of operation. Current club hours are Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.
Upland bird numbers down
North Dakota hunters should expect to see fewer upland game birds this hunting season, according to Aaron Robinson, State Game and Fish Department upland game management biologist. The season for sharp-tailed grouse, ruffed grouse and Hungarian partridge opens Sept. 10.
"Excessive water has affected reproduction in areas, but there will be some areas good for sharptails," Robinson said. "But no doubt birds will be harder to find."
The spring sharptail breeding population was down 30 percent from last year, with numbers falling from west to east. Losses of native prairie and acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program are negatively affecting the sharp-tailed grouse population in North Dakota, Robinson said. In addition, three consecutive harsh winters and a wet, cold spring this year delayed nesting across the state.
Hungarian partridge numbers are also down, and more localized, than last year, Robinson said. "Scouting areas will be critical to success," he added. "At this time there is not one area that stands out from the rest. The cover is high, so hunters will need to scout and be willing to move to other areas to find localized pockets of birds."
This spring's statewide ruffed grouse drumming counts took a dip of 15 percent from 2010. The Turtle Mountains showed a 28 percent decrease from last year. The sage grouse and prairie chicken seasons will remain closed in 2011 due to low populations.
Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Sharptails, ruffed grouse and Huns each have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of 12.
Refuge offers chance to watch wildlife
The Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge is opening the Canada Goose Hiking Trail to automobile travel Friday through Sept. 23.
The trail distance is 6 miles, and starts at the gate just outside the west city limits of Kenmare on Highway 2 and exits on the east side of the Upper Des Lacs Lake on Highway 52.
The trail offers visitors the opportunity to view portions of Pool 2 from the east side of the lake and observe many different migratory bird species such as ducks, geese, swans, grebes, and shorebirds as they congregate during fall migration.
The trail is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Traffic is one-way only from south to north, because the road is too narrow for safe two-way travel, and is only open to automobile, bicycle and foot traffic. All-terrain vehicles are prohibited. Many pull offs are available to use binoculars and spotting scopes for wildlife observation.
For more information, contact refuge headquarters at 385-4046.
Hunting areas affected by flooding
More than half of 72,000 wildlife management area acres along the Missouri River that were once a haven for wildlife and a destination for hunters will likely be devoid of each this fall. North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists say nearly 40,000 acres some of the most pristine public hunting lands in the state have suffered from months of flooding.
There are 20-plus wildlife management areas from Williston to south of Bismarck on the Missouri River System, and many were entirely or partially flooded through spring and summer. Kent Luttschwager, wildlife resource management supervisor in Williston, said hunters will have to adapt this fall, as wildlife populations that have called the Missouri River bottoms home are now displaced because of high water.
Dan Halstead, wildlife resource management supervisor in Riverdale, said the spillway channel running through Riverdale Wildlife Management Area near Garrison Dam was originally 30 yards wide, but is nearly 200 yards wide today.
"But this area was only covered in water for maybe a week as the water quickly made its way back into the channel," Halstead said. Because of this, he said access is gradually coming around, and will continue to improve through September.
Agencies prohibit hunting over bait
Hunters are reminded that hunting big game over bait is prohibited on all state owned or managed wildlife management areas, all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas, U.S. Forest Service national grasslands, and all North Dakota state school, state park and state forest service lands.
In addition, the governor's proclamation relating to chronic wasting disease includes a provision that prohibits hunting big game over bait on both public and private land in deer unit 3F2. Hunting over bait is defined as the placement and/or use of baits for attracting big game and other wildlife to a specific location for the purpose of hunting.