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Published November 03, 2010, 10:21 AM

N.D. voters reject measure to ban big game shooting preserves

North Dakota voters Tuesday defeated a measure that would have banned shooting elk and deer inside high-fence enclosures.

By: Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota voters Tuesday defeated a measure that would have banned shooting elk and deer inside high-fence enclosures.

With 434 of 505 precincts reporting, Initiated Measure No. 2 trailed by a margin of 111,639 to 86,728, or 56.28 percent to 43.72 percent.

Casting a “yes” vote meant support of the ban; a “no” vote, opposition to the measure.

Measure 2 pitted proponents of “fair-chase hunting,” as advocated by conservationists such as Aldo Leopold and Theodore Roosevelt, against livestock producers, shooting preserve operators and landowners who said a ban would violate their property rights.

North Dakota has about a dozen big game shooting preserves, which are licensed by the state agriculture department.

Roger Kaseman, Bismarck, president of North Dakota Hunters for Fair Chase, called Tuesday’s results disappointing. Kaseman led the petition drive to collect the nearly 13,000 signatures that were required to put Measure 2 on the ballot.

“We gave it our best shot,” Kaseman said Tuesday night in a phone interview. “We were out spent. We didn’t have the money to run a campaign. Where we ran campaigns, like in Cass County and Fargo and Grand Forks, we won. But we just didn’t have it to carry over to Bismarck and Minot.”

Kaseman and other proponents had said Measure 2 was necessary to keep North Dakota from turning into another Texas, a state known for high-fence shooting operations that have all but eliminated the heritage of public hunting North Dakotans take for granted.

Opponents saw the measure as a threat to their livelihoods and property rights. Shawn Schafer, director of the North Dakota Deer Ranchers Association, said Tuesday night he was relieved Measure 2 was defeated. Schafer, Turtle Lake, N.D., served as a spokesman for Measure 2 opponents throughout the debate.

“Am I surprised at the results? Probably not,” Schafer said, adding he was glad voters didn’t buy the argument that North Dakota would be filled with shooting preserves if Measure 2 didn’t pass.

“It’s a smokescreen, and that’s all it was,” he said. “There’ve been 12 game farms in this state for over 20 years, and the number hasn’t changed.”

Tuesday’s ballot measure wasn’t the first attempt to ban big game shooting preserves. In 2007, lawmakers overwhelming defeated a bill in the state Legislature. That led supporters to attempt to pass the ban through the state’s initiative and referendum process.

With the defeat of Measure 2, Kaseman said North Dakota Hunters for Fair Chase will dissolve as an organization todaywednesday. For his part, Kaseman said he doesn’t plan further efforts to ban high-fence hunting.

“I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m done with it,” he said.