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One chance to try

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Courtesy Photo North Dakota elk and moose seasons start on Friday. The once-in-a-lifetime licenses should see another positive season.

The chance only comes up once in a lifetime for residents of North Dakota.

The chance is to shoot an elk or a moose, so hunters better make it count.

"I just figured it took a lifetime to get it," Dickinson's Dale Zietz said with a laugh. "It took how many since they first started doing it and I finally got it."

However, North Dakota residents are still able to apply for a landowner preference license, said North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife supervisor Randy Kreil.

"You get one opportunity, unless you are eligible for a landowner preference license," Kreil said. "We have about 10,000 people a year apply for each one of those."

The two licenses are elk and moose season, which open on Friday. The elk units of E3 and E4, which surround the Badlands, open their regular season, while units E1 and E2 open with bow. The moose season opens with bow hunting and doesn't start the regular season until Oct. 7.

"It should be a good opener," NDGF Department big game supervisor Bruce Stillings said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime license and it's a long season, so hunters have plenty of opportunities to get out there."

The way Kreil said it, the two seasons are two different beasts. On average, the moose success rate far exceeds that of the elk.

"Moose hunting success typically runs about 90 percent," Kreil said. "Moose hunters, by all past records, are very successful and we think that will continue this year.

"Elk are a different critter all-together. Elk hunting success in a good is about 40 percent. Elk are a lot more difficult animals to hunt. They live in more difficult habitats and they're much more wary. It's not uncommon to have it down to 25 percent."

With the lower success rate of elk, Zietz, Mon Dak Sports Center & Pawn Shop owner, said that didn't deter him from applying.

"I've hunted elk before, so it's not the end of the world," Zietz said. "You put in all those years and finally get it, it's really something."

The number of licenses in E3 and E4 were scaled down after the elk reduction program at Theodore Roosevelt National Park had successfully removed almost 900 elk from the area.

"The large reduction over the last couple years has really lessened the population in that area," Stillings said. "We recognized that and reduced licenses in those two units by 200. There's no doubt there's going to be fewer animals in those two areas, but there's certainly a satisfactory number for hunters."

Though Zietz has gone elk hunting before and knows harvesting an elk can be tricky, he was extremely happy applying all those times finally paid off.

"It's going to be a lot of fun and I'm glad I got it, but it won't be the end of the world if I don't shoot something," he said."

The unknown death of an elk found on the border of Slope and Billings counties has been determined. The NDGF Department sent the carcass to Bismarck and a vet found out why the elk was laying on the side of the road, but the entire cause of death wasn't completely solved. The only question remaining is what could have caused enough trauma to break an elks back.

"The vet did a necropsy on it and found it had severe trauma to the sacrum, which is where the hips join with the vertebrae," Stillings said. "He basically had a broken vertebrae in the hind quarters. He was paralyzed on the lower extremities."