GRAND FORKS — More memorable than the agenda, perhaps, was the format for this week’s North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s spring advisory board meetings, which were held online over two sessions Monday and Tuesday night, instead of individual public meetings in each of the state’s eight advisory board districts.

I watched Tuesday night’s meeting for the eastern half of the state at home, and there were very few glitches during the 2½-hour session, which had Game and Fish director Terry Steinwand, assistant director Scott Peterson, wildlife chief Jeb Williams and conservation/communications chief Greg Link among a nine-person crew at the department’s Bismarck headquarters while staff including fisheries chief Greg Power, game management section leader Stephanie Tucker and wildlife veterinarian Charlie Bahnson gave presentations from home.

Game and Fish is mandated to hold the meetings twice a year in each of the state’s eight advisory board districts.

“Because of the coronavirus, we’ve all had to adjust, and this is just one way we’re adjusting,” Steinwand said in opening remarks. Whether the fall meetings will be held online, as well, remains to be seen, Steinwand said.

“For now, we’re going to have to do it this way,” he said.

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Despite the different format, hunters and anglers who checked out the livestreams got the same information they would have gotten during public meetings, including the opportunity to ask questions; in this case, either via email or live using the Microsoft Teams app in which the meetings were streamed.

Nearly 250 people streamed Tuesday night’s meeting during the peak, the department said, and the agenda included everything from licensing to fisheries and big game. A few highlights:

Deer hunting

Game and Fish is proposing to offer 69,050 deer gun licenses this fall, an increase of about 3,500 from last year.

If Gov. Doug Burgum signs the proposed deer hunting proclamation, it will be the fifth consecutive year of increased deer gun licenses, wildlife chief Jeb Williams said.

“That’s a positive thing, so we feel good about that vs. the curve from 2010 through 2015, which was a straight downward curve,” Williams said. “We feel good about the opportunities that have been out there for the deer hunting public.”

In the Grand Forks area, the proclamation proposes 1,100 buck tags and 800 doe tags in 2B, unchanged from last year, along with 1,000 buck tags and 600 doe tags in 2C, increases of 200 and 300, respectively.

The department is proposing to offer 3,050 mule deer buck tags and 2,150 antlerless mule deer tags, the same as last year, under the department’s proposal. Unit 4B north of Interstate 94 would have 50 more buck tags and 100 more antlerless tags than last year, while 4D south of the interstate would have 50 fewer buck tags and 100 fewer antlerless tags.

The decline corresponds with comments the department heard during last fall’s advisory board meeting in Belfield, N.D., Williams said.

“People felt that mule deer numbers south of Medora weren’t as good as the previous year,” Williams said. “We’re going to back off on that a little, but the area north of the interstate continues to rebound nicely.”

Applications for this year’s deer gun season will be on the department’s website in the next week or so after the governor signs the proclamation, and the application deadline is Wednesday, June 3, Williams said.

Electronic posting

Plans are in the works to launch a pilot study on electronic posting of land this fall in Ramsey, Slope and Richland counties.

According to Brian Hosek of the Game and Fish Department’s administrative services division, the department hopes to have some specifics about the program on its website by mid-May. As part of the pilot study, landowners or authorized representatives would be able to electronically post land, which then would be identified by either the owner’s name or a parcel identification number. The electronic posting also would include contact information for the landowner or representative, for hunters seeking access.

Game and Fish also would offer printable maps, similar to those available for the department’s Private Land Open to Sportsmen program, Hosek said.

Landowners in the pilot study area who choose to post their land electronically would still have to physically post the land, as well.

“Current state law states land is open unless specifically posted,” Hosek said. “If electronic is deemed a viable solution for future posting, lawmakers will draft and propose legislation to fully implement all the options, but at this point, we’re just evaluating the idea and the option for an electronic posting solution.”

Fisheries

In a presentation delivered from his home, fisheries chief Greg Power said Game and Fish crews have completed the egg take for northern pike, meeting their goal of 110 quarts, and were set to begin collecting walleye eggs in an effort to meet the statewide stocking request of 10 million fingerlings.

“That’s a lot of fish,” Power said. “None of those (fingerlings) are targeted for big water; they’re all for midsize reservoirs or new prairie lakes.”

The hope is to collect all of the walleye eggs from Lake Sakakawea, Power said. Department crews had to shift gears from Lake Oahe and Sakakawea to the Devils Lake basin to meet this year’s pike egg goal, he said.

Crews have been taking numerous safety precautions to minimize the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Power said.

Lack of runoff and cold weather resulted in a marginal run of pike both on Oahe and Sakakawea, Power said, and so crews from the Game and Fish office in Devils Lake collected pike eggs from the upper end of Pelican Lake.

“They went through a lot of smaller pike but got the eggs, and to date, they look to be high quality,” Power said.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.