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WELTE: Understand the laws of open season

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- It's fall, and that means hunting season is here. Opportunities to hunt are abundant: grouse and partridge, ducks and geese, upland and small game, big game and deer. It's a special time of year in these parts.

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USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Wikimedia.org

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - It’s fall, and that means hunting season is here. Opportunities to hunt are abundant: grouse and partridge, ducks and geese, upland and small game, big game and deer. It’s a special time of year in these parts.

Many people have questions about hunting regulations and firearms this time of year. It’s a good opportunity to refresh a little bit on hunting and firearm laws.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has one of the most useful web sites in state government. There is bountiful information about anything you’d want to know regarding hunting and fishing in North Dakota. And you can also buy most licenses online in a fairly quick and uncomplicated manner. The website can be accessed at gf.nd.gov.
Perhaps the most common legal issue that arises during hunting season is the issue of hunting on posted land, and the related issue of trespass onto land. Hunting on posted land without permission can be prosecuted as a violation even if the land isn’t posted to the letter of the law.
Some people are under the impression that hunting on posted land isn’t a big deal. They’re wrong. Hunting on posted land without permission is against the law, and is punishable by suspension of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for a period of at least one year. Additionally, anyone who enters posted land and illegally shoots an animal can actually be prosecuted and forced to forfeit their weapon or their vehicle, if that weapon or vehicle is used in committing a crime. That’s a hefty cost. And it can be avoided by simply approaching the landowner or tenant and asking for permission to hunt. I’ve rarely been turned down when respectfully requesting permission to hunt on posted land. Many landowners post their land simply to ensure they know who is hunting on their land.
Note that only a tenant or owner, or other owner-authorized individual, may post land. They must do so by placing signs that legibly display the name of the person posting the land, and the signs must be readable from the outside of the land. Signs must be placed no more than one-half mile apart, and land surrounded by a fence is sufficiently posted if signs are at or on all gates through the fence. But failure to close gates is a criminal offense, and is punishable by forfeiture of hunting licenses. So be sure to close those gates.
Any person may enter upon legally posted land, without their firearm or bow, to recover game that is killed on land where he had a lawful right to hunt. But it is illegal to hunt in unharvested crops without the owner’s consent.
Even if land is not posted, it is illegal to hunt upon within one-quarter mile of any occupied building without the consent of the person occupying the building.
Except for horses and mules, it is unlawful to use animals in the taking of big game. Of course, dogs are permitted in bird hunting, but not in big game hunting, including deer hunting.
It is illegal to shoot a bow or a firearm while in or on a motor vehicle. And motor vehicles may not be used to pursue game. Motor vehicles may not be used to retrieve big game until the animal has been taken into possession and legally tagged. Even then, the motor vehicle may only be driven on established roads or trails.
No person may carry a firearm with a cartridge in the chamber in or on a motor-driven vehicle while hunting big game. And handguns with removable clips must have that clip removed from the firearm if there are loaded shells in the clip.
Read the hunting proclamation if you have any questions about hunting laws. If you don’t understand the law, ask someone who does. It’s not just a matter of law, but it’s a matter of safety, as well.
Editor’s note: Welte is an attorney for Vogel Law Firm in Grand Forks, N.D., and a small grains farmer in Grand Forks County.

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