2003 Nonresident License Totals Announced

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The number of nonresident pheasant hunters who traveled to North Dakota in 2003 increased nearly 10 percent from the previous year, according to statistics recently compiled by the State Game and Fish Department.

A record 25,072 out-of-staters made their way into North Dakota to pursue pheasants. The number of deer licenses sold to nonresidents last year also increased from 2002, while nonresident waterfowl license sales declined somewhat.

A total of 45,936 individual nonresidents were licensed to hunt in 2003, down from 47,681 in 2002. The difference of 1,745 fewer hunters amounts to 3.6 percent.

The state sold 28,687 nonresident small game licenses in 2003. According to the Game and Fish Department's Nonresident Small Game Hunter survey, 25,072 individuals actually hunted pheasants. That number is a 9.8 percent increase over the 22,840 nonresidents who hunted pheasants in North Dakota in 2002. The actual number of licenses sold to pheasant hunters is somewhere between 25,072 and 28,687 because some individuals purchased more than one 10-day license.

"We were surprised by the number of pheasant hunters who came from out-of-state," said deputy director Roger Rostvet. "Nonresident pheasant hunters have steadily increased in number since 2000, and legislative changes didn't negate that at all."

Preliminary data indicates a shift in counties frequented by nonresident pheasant hunters. In 2002, three of the top five counties were west of the Missouri River, compared to only one county in the top five in 2003. Total percentage of nonresident pheasant hunters west of the Missouri River dropped only slightly, as hunters dispersed away from counties where previous nonresident hunter densities were highest.

The average number of days a nonresident spent hunting pheasants in North Dakota changed little. In 2002, the average nonresident hunted pheasants 4.295 days, and in 2003 nonresident pheasant hunters averaged 4.312 days afield.

It appears the number of North Dakotans hunting pheasants last year increased as well, and that resident hunters accounted for a significant change in pheasant hunting pressure. Figures show a significant decrease in the number of residents hunting west river counties. Preliminary data indicates a 22 percent reduction in residents who hunted in the southwest. Hettinger County, long the top destination for residents, dipped to fourth.

A total of 26,004 nonresident waterfowl licenses were sold last year, down from 30,000 in 2002. That reduction is based strictly on license sales. Prior to 2003, the nonresident waterfowl license was a $10 add-on to the small game license, and early data indicates the number of license buyers who actually hunted waterfowl may have been lower. In 2003, the nonresident waterfowl license was an additional $85.

The decline in waterfowl license sales was expected due to legislative changes to the licensing structure, Rostvet said, and because of dry conditions in parts of the state. "Even though the north central experienced good moisture, much of the state's pothole region was dry. We knew dry conditions and the legislative changes would keep some waterfowl hunters away."

Along with a new license structure, the state also developed two new waterfowl zones in south-central North Dakota. Nonresidents could hunt only seven of their allotted 14 days in either of these two zones. In 2002, the two zones were in the northern portion of the state. Indications are that significantly more nonresident waterfowl hunters bought licenses to hunt these new zones than expected when comparing figures to 2002 data.

In 2002, it was estimated that 4,866 nonresidents hunted mostly in Zone 1. In 2003, 7,345 nonresidents bought licenses for Zone 1. In 2002, 2,314 nonresidents spent the majority of their time in Zone 2, while in 2003, 3,920 nonresidents bought waterfowl licenses in Zone 2. Even though these nonresidents bought waterfowl licenses for zones 1 and 2, a significant portion of them hunted the majority of time in Zone 3, or the remainder of the state.

A noticeable shift to new hunting areas occurred by both resident and nonresident hunters. "For a variety of reasons, waterfowl and upland game hunters moved to other locales than what they were familiar with, and it was caused by conditions other than legislation," Rostvet said.

The 2003 state legislature passed a nonresident bill that separated the small game and waterfowl license, created new fees, and established the small game license as a 10-day license.

The number of deer gun licenses issued to nonresidents last year totaled 2,641, with 1,122 purchasing the $200 first lottery license, while 1,519 nonresidents opted to buy the $50 license after the second lottery. In 2002, 1,793 nonresidents bought the $155 deer license. Nonresident deer and pronghorn archery license sales remained steady even with the increased fee to $200.