Dunn Co. sends request to governor to reduce hunting hours due to drought
Afternoon hunters may have to change their sleeping habits a bit if Gov. Jack Dalrymple approves a request sent by Dunn County to reduce hunting season hours.
At their commission meetings this week, Billings, Bowman, Dunn and Slope counties discussed sending a request that would shorten the hours parties could hunt during the regular season due to dry conditions and fire concerns. Some seasons started last week, with more to begin in the coming weeks.
"Wildfire is a very serious consideration for (western North Dakotans) in the fall there," said Robert Timian, chief game warden at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. "They have every right to be very concerned."
Hunters are allowed to hunt from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. The proposal would shorten that from sunrise to noon.
Nothing has been decided, but Dalrymple has the final decision.
Dunn was the only county to send a request to Dalrymple. Dunn County passed the motion Wednesday with a 3-2 split. Commissioners Donna Scott and Glenn Eckelberg were the dissenting votes.
The governor has declared a state of emergency, Dunn County Emergency Manager Denise Brew said of the fire dangers that come along with the dry conditions.
"He's going to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the people of the state," Timian said. "Whatever decision he makes, (Game and Fish) will absolutely support it."
In the late 1980s, dry conditions spurred a similar reduction to hunting hours, which were confusing, said Timian, who worked in western North Dakota at the time.
After that season, the fire index was created, he said.
"That seemed to work pretty well for the last 20 years," he said.
The fire index addresses the activity of all persons recreating outdoors and not a single group, said Jeb Williams, assistant chief of the wildlife division of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
"Certain activities are prohibited based on the fire index," he said. "Hunters have a pretty good track record of being responsible when they're out in the field."
Dry conditions in the western part of the state have been the rule, not the exception, Timian said.
"Hunter-related fires have been extremely rare," he said.
The main causes of wildfires are lightning and equipment, Timian said.
Hunters in the field can help fight fires, he said.
"There's actually more sets of eyes out there too, to report the accidental fires," Timian said.
Because most everyone, hunters included, carry cellphones, they are able to call in smoke or fires, he said.
The requests are a way for counties to take further action in preventing fires.
"If (the counties) think their actions will prevent even one (fire), it's worthwhile for them to ask," Timian said.
Billings, Bowman and Slope counties all voted not to send a request. Stark County commissioners did not address the issue at their Tuesday meeting.