Published November 11, 2012, 05:05 AM

Outdoor Factoids: Stay off the ice

North Dakota Game and Fish Departmemt warns deer hunters to stay off of ice this year's hunting season. And more.

Stay off the ice.

That’s the message the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has for deer hunters who might be tempted to venture onto frozen water during this year’s hunting season.

North Dakota’s firearm deer season opened at noon Friday and continues through Nov. 25.

According to Game and Fish, weather this time of year can quickly put a coat of ice on small and midsized waters, giving the appearance they’re safe.

Not so, says Nancy Boldt, boat and water safety coordinator for Game and Fish in Bismarck. Boldt said hunters should be cautious of walking on frozen stock ponds, sloughs, creeks and rivers.

“Ice can form overnight, causing unstable conditions,” she said. “Even though deer might be able to make it across, it doesn’t mean hunters can.”

Ice thickness is not consistent, Boldt said, and can vary significantly within a few inches. Hunters walking the edge of a cattail slough will not find the same ice thickness in the center.

“The edges firm up faster than the center,” she said. “So, with your first step the ice might seem like it is strong enough, but it isn’t anywhere near solid enough once you progress away from the shoreline.”

Boldt also cautions hunters to be aware of snow-covered ice. Snow insulates ice, inhibiting freezing and making it difficult to check thickness. Snow also hides cracked, weak and open water areas.

“Basically, if there is ice formation during the deer season, stay away from it,” Boldt said. “It will not be safe.”

Outdoor recreation remains a priority for Americans, despite a tough economy, widespread unemployment and government deficits, results from a new study show.

According to the State of the Industry Report compiled by Southwick Associates, more than 140 million Americans spend $646 billion on their recreational pursuits each year. The money helps support 6.1 million jobs, $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $39.7 billion in state and local tax revenues.

Outdoors enthusiasts spend $120.7 billion on gear and vehicles and $524.8 billion on trips.

Some other highlights from the report:

• The $646 billion Americans spend each year on outdoor recreation far exceeds the $331 billion spent on pharmaceuticals, according to statistics supplied by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

• Americans spend more on bicycling equipment and activities ($81 billion) than they do on air transportation ($51 billion).

• Nearly one out of every 20 Americans makes a living off outdoor recreation.

• According to the National Association of State Park Directors, more than 725 million visits to 6,000 state parks nationwide result in a collective $20 billion economic impact to the communities surrounding those parks.

Deer seasons are under way across North Dakota and Minnesota, and the pursuit of white-tailed deer remains the most popular type of hunting in the United States, with more than 10 million people going afield each fall.

Market research firm Southwick Associates recently released its Deer Hunter Report, which includes such nuggets as:

• 84 percent of deer hunters read some type of hunting magazine between October and December 2011, the most usage of any one media type.

• Archery hunters spend an average of 4.91 days bow hunting for deer.

• Deer hunters pursue many other species as well. The most hunted species after deer, by those who identify themselves as deer hunters, is wild turkey, with 32 percent of them hunting turkeys during the year as well.

Ask the DNR

Q. With a winter chill in the air, people are getting ready to ride their snowmobiles. What are the educational requirements for the legal operation of a snowmobile in Minnesota?

A. Current statute requires anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976 to take a safety-training course before operating a snowmobile on public lands or waters. Two types of youth courses are available for students ages 11 to 15. The first is the traditional eight-hour course, which meets two or more times for classroom-style training. The second is a CD-based course that can be completed at home. Both courses require a field day, which includes content review, a final exam and a hands-on riding performance test.

Those riders who are age 16 and older and need snowmobile safety training can study and complete the CD-based course; a hands-on performance test is not required.

Both of these introductory courses are designed for youth or riders with little or no experience. The courses show students the most common causes of snowmobile accidents in Minnesota and how to avoid them. Trained volunteer instructors teach classes across the state.

Information regarding snowmobile safety certification classes can be found on the DNR’s website at

— Capt. Mike Hammer

Hammer is education program coordinator for the DNR’s Enforcement Division.

— Compiled by Brad Dokken