Published February 9, 2023

Outdoor Issues at State Legislature 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

Party hunting, deer baiting, fishing tournament fees 

BISMARCK – Two outdoor related bills were presented to the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday, the most anticipated being HB1377 which would allow party hunting for deer. Currently each recipient of a deer license tag is required to harvest their own deer. 

The party hunting bill introduced by Rep. Donna Henderson, R-Dis. 9B, Calvin, would allow hunting parties of 10 or fewer to fill deer tags for anyone in the party. 

“The purpose of this bill is to keep the culture of hunting alive in our state,” said Henderson in her testimony before the committee. “You can’t have a tag and not participate in the hunt.” 

Casey Anderson, wildlife division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, told the committee that party hunting is a management tool used in other states to facilitate an increased harvest where there is an overabundance of deer. 

“We already have 20,000-plus people who apply for deer tags and don’t get them,” said Anderson. “Our supply does not meet demand.” 

Anderson urged a Do Not Pass recommendation from the committee. No action was immediately taken. 

A second bill before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday, HB1366, would allow barefoot skiers to wear a wetsuit designed for barefoot skiers rather than a personal flotation device as required by North Dakota law. No one spoke against the bill. Again, the committee took no immediate action. 

The issue of funding for Game and Fish is placed before legislators at each session. Among the highlights of budgetary requests by NDGF is the addition of two more warden investigators, $245,000 for seasonal aquatic nuisance species personnel at boat ramps in the state, a new laboratory and storage facility for the ANS department, and new in-car video systems for game wardens. 

A decision on NDGF funding is expected from lawmakers as early as next week. 

Two outdoor issues that have generated the most testimony continue to work their way through the legislative process. HB1151, which would prohibit Game and Fish from prohibiting the baiting of deer, is still being examined in a sub-committee of House Energy and Natural Resources. A recommendation, do or don’t pass, could come as early as next week. 

HB1538, a bill introduced at the deadline, would change the way Game and Fish charges for fishing tournaments. Currently Game and Fish assesses a 10% “conservation fee” for any entity to hold a qualified fishing tournament.  

Proponents of the bill say the fee, and the lifting of a cap of $5,000 dollars, has led to national fishing tournaments leaving North Dakota in favor of other states, and inappropriately charges charities who hold fund-raising events on the water.  

HB1538 had an initial hearing before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. No date has been announced for further action. 

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