Bighorn, Elk, & Moose Regulations Proposed

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Regulations have been suggested and applicants could see a number of changes for this year's bighorn sheep, elk and moose hunting seasons, according to biologists for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The proposal has been submitted to Governor John Hoeven's office for approval.

Applications will be accessible on the game and fish internet website by March 5, and at license vendors by March 10. The deadline for submitting applications is March 17.

The bighorn sheep regular season dates are recommended to run Sept. 24 - Oct. 24, with bow season from Sept. 17 - Oct. 24. Four licenses are proposed for 2004 - three licenses by lottery and one license auctioned through the Minnesota-Wisconsin Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.

Two lottery licenses, down one from last year, would be available in Unit B4, the unit north of Interstate 94. Two townships near the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park will be closed to hunting in response to low ram numbers, according to Brett Wiedmann, bighorn sheep biologist, Dickinson. "Because an adequate number of mature rams is necessary for the health of any wild sheep herd, it is critical that we protect the remaining rams until their numbers increase to an acceptable level," Wiedmann said.

Unit B1, the unit south of Interstate 94 that has been closed to hunting since 1999, will have one lottery license available. "This hunting unit was closed in 1999 in response to an all-age-class die-off which occurred near Bullion Butte during the late 1990s," Wiedmann said. "The department now feels that a sufficient number of surplus rams warrants opening the unit in 2004. However, areas near Bullion Butte and Kendley Plateau will be closed because transplanted sheep were recently released within these areas."

A total of 201 elk licenses are recommended in 2004, down 20 from last year. The reduction comes from Unit E1 at the request of local landowners. The season in Unit E1 would run from Oct. 8-31. There will not be a second open period in this unit, reports Roger Johnson, big game supervisor, Devils Lake, because local landowners felt additional hunting opportunities were not necessary due to a significant harvest of animals in preceding years. Additional areas in units E2 and E3 have been added for landowner preference licenses.

Upon approval, bow season dates for units E1 and E2 are Sept. 3 - Oct. 3. Regular season dates are as follows: Unit E3, Aug. 13-29; Unit E4, Aug. 13-19 early, Aug. 20-29 late; and Unit E2, Oct. 8-31, and Nov. 19 - Dec. 19.

The moose season will have 135 licenses available, six more than last year. Moose numbers in northeast North Dakota and the Turtle Mountains continue to be low due to disease problems, Johnson said, therefore license numbers have been slightly reduced in Unit M4, which is the Turtle Mountains. "However, other areas of the state are seeing increasing numbers of moose which allows for a modest increase in licenses in Units M8 and M10," Johnson added, "resulting in the availability of three additional gratis licenses."

Units M6 and M7 are combined into one large unit designated as M6. "This change will be implemented due to low numbers of moose in the southern portion of the area," Johnson said. "Moose in these areas are widely distributed and a larger unit will allow hunters more of an opportunity to search out areas where moose are located."

In response to increasing moose numbers the western boundary of Unit M10 has been moved from ND Highway 8 to ND Highway 40.

Bow season dates for all moose units are recommended to be open from Sept. 3 - Oct. 3. Regular season dates for units M1C, M4, M8, M9 and M10 are Oct. 8-31. Regular season dates for units M5 and M6 are Nov. 26 - Dec. 19.

Applications for these seasons are available from game and fish offices, county auditors and license vendors. Persons can also apply online, or print out an application, at the game and fish internet website, Regular application fees apply and no service charge is added.

Mailed applications must be postmarked no later than midnight March 17. Applicants are urged to mail early because some post offices use the following day's postmark if mailed after regular hours.

Nonresidents are eligible to apply for one bighorn sheep license in the lottery. They compete with residents for licenses with no guarantee a license will be issued to a nonresident. Nonresidents must submit a nonrefundable $100 application fee when sending in bighorn applications. If a nonresident is drawn, the license fee is $500.

Bighorn sheep, moose, and elk lottery licenses are issued on a once-in-a-lifetime basis. Persons lucky enough be drawn for a license have no guarantee of harvesting an animal, Johnson cautions. "In the case of elk, less than half the applicants who receive a license will harvest an animal," he added. "Elk and bighorn sheep hunting in North Dakota are incredibly hard and physically demanding hunts. Therefore it's important that any person applying for these licenses be prepared for a challenge."