Spring 2017 News from Prairie Smoke Ranch
Greetings from the prairie. It has been a long winter and short spring and the North Dakota state legislature has just adjourned so we want to pass on the latest information which might impact our hunters this fall.
We had a tough winter. Lots of snow, wind and cold weather early on. Late winter was milder and our snow is nearly all gone but we are just coming off another wintry blast of freezing mornings. Our water levels were low last fall, with many of our smaller potholes completely dried up or dried down significantly. Our snow melt has filled the wetlands up again. Difficult to say how the sloughs will fare over the summer, although the basins are full, most of the smaller water is pretty shallow. Our hot blind last year -- The Hook, took on some water. Our Bluebill Lake is down a bit. Overall we should be fine, but it is dry now. Roads are in very good condition.
We had about 12 acres of food plots in last fall, which we left standing. As usual the corn stand has been picked over pretty well – deer, pheasants, sharpies and assorted other hungry critters have left few cobs behind. Plenty of soybeans left but the mallards, pintails and pheasants have been working on them since the snow melted. It was a tough year for pheasants and deer, although we are already seeing quite a few roosters and hens on and off the ranch. Deer mortality was significant but we are still seeing good numbers which made it through.
The usual suspects are in place and doing their thing – lots of mallards, pintails and spoonies in now, with good numbers of teal, bluebills, redheads, gaddies and a few cans mixed in. Canada geese are claiming their potholes; I suspect some are nesting. A few swans moving thru too. Snow geese have long since passed thru.
Legislation impacting Nonresident Hunters
The ND legislature meets every other year and each occasion is an opportunity to add changes to our nonresident hunting seasons. This year we got by without much damage. A variety of hunting or wildlife-related bills were introduced but none of them passed except for a bill which made the pheasant opener date into law – October 12 or earlier. As a result the pheasant opener date for 2017 was moved up to October 7.
Other measures would have changed the dates, times and costs of nonresident licenses, but these failed to gain traction, so the season frameworks and licenses will remain the same as in 2016.
One odd law in ND allows ND Game and Fish to set up roadblocks for game checks without probable cause – i.e. you may be pulled over just because you bought a hunting license. An effort to overturn this law failed, so as a result it will be business as usual – you can and will be pulled over for game checks while leaving the state on interstate highways because you purchased a license (your license plate is cross-referenced with the hunting license database as you drive thru).
We provide labels for your birds so these checks shouldn’t be a problem -- but you must travel with your birds if in multiple vehicles to remain legal.
Bag limits and season dates and lengths have not been formally announced but we expect frameworks similar to 2016, which included a generous six bird duck limit and a daily limit of three pheasants, sharpies and huns with 12 of each in possession.
The legislature will not meet again until 2019, so we should be hunting under these guidelines for a couple years.
What’s New for 2017
We have been trying some different decoy sets the last few years with mixed results; our gang sets for swans seem to work but few guys hunted them, so we will probably shift to a couple of gang sets for ducks instead.
I expect we will get back some of our smaller sloughs – like the box-blind set on the Nick ponds – and give us a few more options. Last year our Bluebill Saddle blind was solid again and The Hook was surprisingly productive. The other blinds were spotty and weather dependent.
Last year we had low water, lots of mallards early, and fewer divers than in previous years – it remains to be seen what 2017 holds in store. We should have plenty of water and solid production.
We will continue to shrink our food plots a bit to make them easier to hunt. We just picked up our seed again and will likely plant some combination of corn, beans and sorghum. Our forage food plot for deer fared poorly last year but it is already greening up, so maybe this year it will come in stronger.
Pheasants took a hit but seemed to weather the winter storms, we will wait for crowing counts to see what we have for numbers in our area. Game and Fish will come out with estimates soon enough, which I will pass on. Sharpies should do fine but huns were probably also knocked back.
Our deer hunting for 2017 has been fully booked but we still have some good upland and waterfowl slots in September and October – see www.prairiesmokeranch.com for complete details.
Shoot us any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call 701-537-4171.
Dan & Jeanie
Prairie Smoke Ranch