ND Game and Fish Director Looking at 2024


A look at some of the 2024 issues from Jeb Williams Department NDGF director. ( NDGF of Jeb Williams)

ND Outdoors

Doug Leier | Outreach Biologist

Every hunter, angler and trapper can assess their own past seasons and look forward to the challenges and opportunities of 2024. The director of North Dakota Game and Fish and division chiefs are tasked with understanding and guiding the vested interests of all from Cavalier to Carson, from Crosby to Cayuga.
It’s a challenge to say the least, but here’s a look at some of the issues from Jeb Williams Department director.

Looking back on the past year
We had a full six months of winter (2022-23) that was tough on people, tough on wildlife alike. We had a lot of concerns over some fisheries as well. That turned out to maybe not be as bad as what we originally thought it was going to be. But certainly, from a big game perspective, deer, pronghorn, definitely had it pretty tough. Our upland game birds came through winter a little better than what we anticipated. But we also had a really nice production year (2023), which added to a nice population last fall.

Ahead to 2024
We’re in a much better situation than what we were last year at this point in time. We already had a couple feet of snow on the landscape and some extreme cold weather before we even got to Christmas. And so, we’re much better ahead, and I think everybody agrees that that’s kind of what we needed this winter as well.

North Dakota has the most aggressive stocking program. We have a very unique system in place with the federal fish hatcheries, two federal fish hatcheries. We’re the only state that doesn’t have a state-owned fish hatchery but has a very unique partnership and relationship with our hatcheries. And then again, a very ambitious and dedicated fisheries crew that do the stocking efforts and have really seen the successes of those efforts in all areas of the state.

Positives of heavy snow from 2023
To get our habitat conditions going out there in the right direction, and then as spring came, early summer, the rain kept coming as well in most areas of the state. The habitat conditions across the state we’re in good shape, and that really did lead to some good production when it came to our upland birds during nesting seasons … it was just that perfect weather period. Things weren’t too hot, they weren’t too cold, and we had, again, good rainfall, good conditions out there which created a lot of diversity with insects, which we all know is extremely important for the success of those young birds.

Big Game
Right now, there’s challenges for our big game populations, especially white-tailed deer, mule deer and pronghorn. And so, again, we know from a really tough winter last year that that’s going to take a little bit of time. We’ve had some disease concerns over the last number of years, specifically EHD, which definitely took its toll. But you know, we’re seeing some
populations fill back in. But those things just take some time as well. And so, we’re always going to have the challenges, but we’re well equipped as a department to take on some of those challenges and concerns that are out there and we look forward to them.

We’ve added maybe a few more tools in that toolbox as far as working with landowners to add some habitat on the landscape and, again, engaging some partners to help with some of those opportunities as well. So that’s a continuous challenge we have in North Dakota when North Dakota is dominated by private land ownership. We need to be working with private landowners and we know we can always make improvements in how we do that, looking at the types of programs that meet the needs of each different landowner.

Two issues we have been tracking for quite some time now and, again, trying to use the tools that we have out there to reduce the footprint that they can have on the landscape. And so, we’re going to continue to assess our tools and rely on the best information to how we can reduce the risk of those two things spreading on the landscape and creating a bigger footprint on the landscape, which can create problems down the road.

2024 and the Future
Knowing that we’re always going to have good opportunities in North Dakota, there’s always going to be something that a person can have adequate or even more than adequate opportunities. But then there’s always going to be other things that are maybe down. And so, if a person appreciates all aspects of the outdoors, you’re always going to have something that’s going to keep you busy and occupied

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