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Hunting's good old days are upon us

5/31/2006

When you look ahead, 20 years seems like a long time. When you look back, however, 20 years doesn't seem like much.

I thought about that last month one day as I had occasion to, via my desktop computer, take a stroll through the North Dakota Outdoors CD-ROM collection of magazines from 1931-1996.

I began by browsing the early years, which included establishment of the Game and Fish Department, a historical debate about caribou remains in the Turtle Mountains, and scarcity of white-tailed deer to the extent that the North Dakota Agricultural School - now North Dakota State University — maintained a small captive deer herd.

For awhile, I got stuck on 20 years, perhaps because I have some memories of that time, as a naïve teenager living in the LaMoure area. My memories of that time will be forever positive, especially about the outdoors, which to a kid seemed a vast place that was ripe for exploring. Reading the pages of those 1984 magazines, I realized there was a lot going on that I didn't know about at the time.

On the national and regional scene, the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles were closing, Les Steckel was coaching the Vikings, and Ronald Regan was running the country. I poured a cup of coffee and dug deeper into 1984 to find out what was going on in North Dakota.

An interesting citizen observation report was included from a 9-year-old Underwood, N.D. boy, who noted the amazement of a chance observation of a bald eagle near the Garrison Dam Tailrace. Interestingly enough the young lad, Dan Driessen, to this day works with youth involved with the outdoors for the Extension Service in Grand Forks.

Even now, young and old alike still enjoy the opportunity to see our national symbol, but the endangered eagle has recovered to the point where sightings are quite common and it may be de-listed later this year.

An article written by now-retired game warden Gerald Geisen of Bottineau detailing the seizure of a pickup truck used illegally. In this benchmark case of wildlife shining, Judge A.S. Benson ordered a 1964 Chevrolet delivered to the Game and Fish Department for disposition — it was later sold at a private auction.

When I began my first post as a district game warden in Bottineau during the spring of 1996, I met warden Geisen. He proved a great resource and truly had a passion for wildlife running through his blood.

Time hasn't changed much with poaching over the past 20 years, but game wardens are facing new challenges and potentially dangerous situations with the expansion of drug manufacturing and use in the rural areas. The number to report illegal is still 1.800.472.2121, as it was two decades ago.

Game management division chief C.R. Grondahl previewed the 1984 upland game season, and was optimistic the pheasant harvest would approach the 142,000 mark, as it had in 1983. In his words, "we could come close."

Sharp-tailed grouse hunters bagged 118,000 birds the year prior to 1984 and hopes were for another strong season.

Last year, pheasant hunters in North Dakota bagged more than 500,000 roosters and the grouse take was 150,000.

As I recalled "the good old days" of hunting Twin Lakes for snow geese and various waterfowl production areas for roosters, at the time I thought that was about as good as things could get.

Recent pheasant hunting, however, leaves little to grumble at, Canada geese provide an array of opportunity. Waterfowl migrations are above average, And the list goes on. We've plenty for which to be thankful right now.

Time and again, as my son and I oil up our boots and sort out the decoys, even many years from now, I bet I'll be calling these the good ol' days. But not without an argument from 1984.

Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@state.nd.us.