Refuge tags on agenda

Two National Wildlife Refuges are located within North Dakota Game and Fish Department Advisory Board District 2. Both refuges, Upper Souris and J. Clark Salyer, allow deer gun hunting but have some special refuge guidelines that will be a target of discussion when the District 2 Advisory Board meeting is held in Minot April 17. The meeting is set for the Grand International Inn at 7 p.m.

Current regulations require that deer hunters at Upper Souris and J. Clark Salyer obtain both refuge tags and Game and Fish issued tags for the proper deer gun unit to hunt antlered deer. Hunters applying in the deer gun lottery and wishing to hunt antlered deer on either of the two refuges essentially participate in a “double draw.”

Upper Souris NWR annually issues about 125 antlered deer tags. Prospective hunters must obtain an antlered deer tag for Unit 3A2 and also a special refuge tag to be eligible to harvest an antlered deer at Upper Souris. The odds of doing so are not very favorable.

“Refuge buck tags are one of the hardest draws in the state,” said Tom Pabian, Upper Souris NWS manager.

J. Clark Salyer NWR is located in Deer Gun Unit 3A4 in McHenry and Bottineau counties. Hunting on the refuge is broken down into nine hunting areas and “the rest of the refuge” explained Frank Durbian, Souris River Basin Complex Manager.

Only holders of refuge permits may hunt antlered deer at J. Clark Salyer. No refuge permit is required to hunt antlerless deer. All hunters must possess a valid state permit for 3A4.

“Hunters can apply simultaneously for permits, apply for 3A4 and a refuge specific buck tag,” said Durbian. “It is complicated with nine public areas. We want to do what the public wants, as long as it is compatible with the mission of the refuge.”

“We’re seeking input from refuge deer hunters, if they like the current system or think there is a better system, or just want to see the refuge permits go away,” added Pabian. “We are always evaluating our programs. We’re trying to figure out what the local deer hunters would prefer.”

Randy Kreil, NDG&F Wildlife Division chief, encourages sportsmen interested in discussing the refuge permit systems to attend the April 17 meeting. It will be an opportunity for sportsmen to voice the concerns and explain their ideas.

“Fifteen years ago all the state refuges had a different set of deer hunting regulations. We worked with Fish and Wildlife to basically eliminate special permits on refuges and it has worked well at all other refuges in the state,” said Kreil. “Do we really need special permits at those refuges? We want to talk about it.”

Pabian said persons unable to attend the upcoming meeting can still voice their concerns by contacting Pabian at Upper Souris NWR at 468-5467 or by contacting Kreil at NDG&F at 328-6330.