When the regular deer season in North Dakota opened on Nov. 5, many hunters for the first time had electronic access to about 4 million acres of land on which its owners gave permission to hunt.

About 3,500 landowners electronically posted their acreage on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website. Electronic posting was available to landowners between May 15, 2021, and July 15, 2021, said Brian Hosek, who works in administrative services at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The 4 million acres represents about 8.9% of North Dakota's total acreage.

The electronic posting option was made available by a North Dakota law that was signed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on April 28, 2021, and went into effect on Aug. 1, 2021.

Under North Dakota law, land is open to entry unless it formally is posted for no trespassing. Previously landowners who didn’t want anyone trespassing or hunting on their land had to place signs on it indicating that. However, landowners long have voiced concerns that it takes a lot of time and effort to post land and, even if they do so, hunters often disregard their signs. The location of some land, especially that along river corridors, meanwhile, makes it logistically difficult for landowners to physically post, Hosek said.

“We’ve got some rugged parts of the state,” he said.

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The electronic posting option was made available by a North Dakota law that was signed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on April 28, 2021, and went into effect on Aug. 1, 2021.

Attempts over the years to change the North Dakota law have failed, despite garnering interest from the public . In 2019, in an attempt to reach a compromise between people who thought all North Dakota land should be closed to hunting or trespassing unless permission was sought to be on it and ones who believed it should be open unless it is posted, the North Dakota Legislature set up a pilot project that was run by the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish.

The pilot project focused on electronic posting in Ramsey, Richland and Slope counties, and an interim legislative committee, headed by Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr was formed to study land access issues.

Senate Bill 2144, passed in the 2021 legislative session, made available the option for electronic posting. The bill also defined a fence and and prohibited entry into an area that's enclosed by a well-maintained fence made to hold livestock to anyone but hunters and anglers.

Hunters and anglers who search the North Dakota Game and Fish Department electronic posting site will see information there about how to contact landowners to get permission to enter their land.

The aim of the law was to improve communication between hunters and landowners, Hosek said.

“A lot of landowners aren’t opposed to hunting but want to know who is out there," he said.

The 4 million acres that were electronically posted are in counties across North Dakota, Hosek said.

In 2022, landowners will have three more months to sign up for the program than they did this year. Signup will be from Feb. 1 through July 1.