BISMARCK — The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is proposing modest increases in the number of elk and moose licenses available for the 2017 hunting season.
According to Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck, the department is proposing to offer 389 elk tags statewide, up from 332 last year. The department is planning to offer 247 moose licenses, Williams said, up from slightly more than 200 last year.
The department’s elk and moose proclamations are at the governor’s office awaiting the signature of Gov. Doug Burgum, Williams said.
Williams said Game and Fish proposed the increases based on strong populations of both species. Elk and moose licenses in North Dakota are once-in-a-lifetime offerings.
For elk, much of the proposed increase comes from the western part of the state, Williams said. The department also split hunting Unit E1 into separate east and west units because research has shown the Turtle Mountain and Pembina Gorge herds are two discrete populations that should be managed separately, Williams said.
Game and Fish is proposing to offer 40 elk licenses in E1 west and 70 licenses in E1 east. Last year, 100 licenses were available in the entire unit, Williams said.
In the case of moose, Game and Fish is proposing more licenses in the northwest part of the state, where moose continue to thrive in areas that could be considered nontraditional habitat. In addition, the department added Unit M11 near Lake Sakakawea to the mix instead of offering one huge unit, which M10 was in the past.
The split allows for a more focused harvest in those areas instead of hunters having to navigate one massive hunting unit, Williams said.
“Now we’re having to put another unit boundary in there to try to direct harvest into certain areas and reduce some of the high numbers of moose in certain areas of those units,” Williams said. “We worked with a fair amount of landowners that expressed interest in seeing moose numbers being brought down a bit to get more in line with their landowner tolerance.”
Moose continue to “rewrite the book” in terms of the areas they’re supposed to inhabit, Williams said.
“It’s been an interesting dynamic to follow over the years,” he said.
North Dakota’s archery moose season is set to open Friday, Sept. 1, and the regular season opens Friday, Oct. 6.
The regular elk season is scheduled to open Friday, Sept. 1 in Units E3, E4 and E5, and the season in Units E1 east and west and E2 is set to open Friday, Oct. 6. The archery season in hunting units E1 and E2 opens Friday, Sept. 1.
The lottery deadline for all of the elk and moose seasons is Wednesday, March 22.
Further details will be available once the governor’s proclamation is finalized.