Legislative update: pharmacy, social host, Internet hunting, divorce

BISMARCK—Chain retailers may not want to think about opening pharmacies in North Dakota just yet.

The House Industry, Business and Labor Committee gave a 10-3 do-not pass recommendation to the idea on Wednesday.

House Bill 1434 deletes wording in North Dakota law that requires pharmacies be majority-owned by pharmacists licensed in the state. This would have allowed retailers like Target and Walmart to open their own pharmacies in the state.

Committee Chairman Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, said he voted against the bill based on testimony that current law serves the state’s residents well.

Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, said he sponsored the bill on behalf of more than 40 constituents who want to see the law changed.

This same issue came up during the 2009 Legislature and failed to make it on the 2010 ballot due to a flaw in the way petitions were circulated. North Dakota is the only state in the nation with this law.

The bill now goes to the House floor for a full vote.

Social host

The state Senate killed the “social host” bill on Wednesday that would have punished those providing a location for underage drinking.

Senate Bill 2257 states someone who possesses or controls private property may not knowingly allow minors to drink on that property. They must also make a reasonable effort to stop the underage drinking, including calling the police.

Those who violated the proposed law would face a $500 fine.

Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, called the bill a “well-intentioned effort to find a solution to underage drinking.” However, the Judiciary Committee had concerns and many questions about putting the responsibility on property owners, she said.

“What we’re doing is shifting the responsibility from the guilty underage drinker to the property owner,” she said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, said the bill was a result of a series of meetings that involved residents, law enforcement and legislators in southeastern North Dakota.

He said North Dakota has a problem with underage drinking, and other states and cities have similar social host regulations.

“I do think eventually we’ll go this way,” he said.

The bill failed on an 11-34 vote.

Internet hunting

The North Dakota Senate voted Wednesday to ban Internet hunting.

Senate Bill 2352 bans hunting wildlife in real time using Internet services to remotely control firearms and discharge live ammunition, thus allowing someone not physically present to kill wildlife.

This also includes using any remotely-controlled device to hunt.

The bill also bans hosting an Internet hunt, enabling someone else to hunt through the Internet, and importing, exporting or possessing wildlife that’s been killed by an Internet hunt.

A violation of the proposed law would be a Class C felony.

The Senate passed the bill on a 43-2 vote. It now moves to the House.

Divorce study

North Dakota senators think it’s worthwhile to study divorce.

On a 41-4 vote, the Senate approved a 2011-12 interim state study looking into the physical, emotional and financial effects associated with divorces involving dependent children.

The study asks for legislative policy solutions, including divorce reform legislation and marriage education.

Sitte of Bismarck said there’s data showing divorce costs the government money due to increased use of food stamps and public housing and increased juvenile delinquency. She said it’s in the state’s interest to study the matter.

However, Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, said there have already been a number of family law studies.

“We’ve discussed this topic. I don’t think we need to discuss it again,” she said.

The bill now moves to the House.

N.D. bill seeks to ban Internet hunting

BISMARCK—North Dakota may soon join other states in banning hunting through the Internet.

Senate Bill 2352 would ban hunting wildlife in real time using Internet services to remotely control firearms and discharge live ammunition, thus allowing someone not physically present to kill wildlife.

The bill also bans hosting an Internet hunt, enabling someone else to hunt through the Internet, and importing, exporting or possessing wildlife that’s been killed by an Internet hunt.

A violation of the proposed law would be a Class C felony.

Sen. Dave Oehlke, R-Devils Lake, said a constituent proposed the bill after learning about Internet hunting occurring in another state.

People pay big money to do Internet hunting, which is similar to playing a Wii game, Oehlke said.

“But it’s no game. And this type of activity, frankly Mr. Chairman, in my perspective, is enough to make a billy goat puke,” he said.

The North Dakota Wildlife Federation and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department also supported the bill

Paul Schadewald of Game and Fish said they aren’t aware of instances of Internet hunting in the state now.

Foster Ray Hager, a lobbyist for the Cass County Wildlife Club, said they support the bill because Internet hunting could reach North Dakota.

“We just feel that pushing a button on a computer to kill an animal somewhere in some other state is not really considered hunting as far as North Dakota sportsmen’s go,” he said.

No one opposed the bill. The Senate Natural Resources Committee did not take immediate action.

Hunting Works advocates stress sport’s impact

BISMARCK— Hunting in North Dakota has a $278 million ripple effect on the state’s economy and supports nearly 3,000 jobs each year, hunting advocates say.

A new organization called Hunting Works for North Dakota launched Monday to raise awareness about the sport’s impact on the state. North Dakota is the first state to announce the initiative backed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The goal is to provide a cohesive message about the positive effects of hunting, said Mark Thomas of the Connecticut-based foundation. Similar programs in Minnesota and Arizona will be announced this week.

Supporters provided statistics showing 139,000 people hunt in North Dakota each year and spend $103 million.

The issue isn’t about hunters versus nonhunters or about killing animals, said Todd Jacobson, owner of the Sunlac Inn in Lakota and co-chairman of Hunting Works for North Dakota.

Supporters also stressed the initiative is not related to Measure 2, which would ban high-fence hunting in the state.

“It’s about how hunting affects us in North Dakota, period, economically speaking,” Jacobson said. “It’s as important as farming. It’s as important as the oil industry. It’s right up there (as) one of our top industries in the state.”

Terri Thiel, executive director of the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau, said hunting season is “like Christmas” for a number of small communities and businesses near Dickinson.

Hunting accounts for 40 percent of business at the Sunlac Inn and supports its 32 employees, Jacobson said. “I don’t think people realize, even if you’re a nonhunter, how much it (hunting) affects you,” he said. “We’re here to try and change that.”

Hunting Works for North Dakota is also about maintaining the state’s heritage, said John Arman of Bismarck and host of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures.

The grassroots partnership includes North Dakota sporting organizations, small businesses, hospitality entities and retailers from across the state.

Hunting used to be about putting food on the table and still is through the money and jobs it provides, Thomas said. The initiative aims to create awareness as hunting participation declines due to issues like lack of access and increasing regulations, he said.

North Dakota and Minnesota are part of a pilot program that will determine whether to spread Hunting Works programs to the rest of the country, Thomas said. For more information, visit www.huntingworksforND.com.

Hunting measure impact unknown

BISMARCK – There are no known added expenses to the government if voters approve an initiated measure related to fee hunting of captive exotic and native game animals, lawmakers learned Thursday.

Voters will decide in November whether people should be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if they obtain payment for the killing or attempted killing of privately-owned big game species or exotic mammals in or released from a man-made enclosure.

The measure doesn’t apply to authorized government employees or agents controlling an animal population or preventing or controlling diseases.

The Legislative Management meeting Thursday was not an opportunity to debate the issue but to determine what the fiscal impact of the measure may be, said Chairman Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

The State Board of Animal Health doesn’t know what the impact may be, said Beth Carlson, deputy state veterinarian.

The board regulates all nontraditional livestock and farmed elk facilities in the state, she said. However, there are no specific requirements for hunting or game animal operations.

Therefore, the board isn’t sure if it would be responsible for enforcement or investigations if the measure passes, Carlson said. If the board needs to do monitoring to enforce the law, several employees would be needed to do so, she said.

The board knows there are 103 cervid farms in the state, but they aren’t required to say if they offer hunting as a service, she said.

“So, we don’t really know how many of those farms offer this type of service, and we don’t know how many farms sell to those operations that offer those services,” Carlson said.

Greg Link, assistant wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, also said his agency doesn’t regulate the hunting aspect of the privately owned operations. However, he estimated about a dozen farmed deer and elk operations in the state provide fee hunts.

There would be little to no fiscal impact to the department if the measure passed, Link said. Whether the impacted operations would continue without fee hunts is unknown, he said. There isn’t data of the revenues they obtain from those services, Link said.

Shawn Schafer of the North Dakota Deer Ranchers Association told lawmakers there’s a possibility of a lawsuit if the measure passes.

North Dakotans will vote on the measure Nov. 2.

Hunting allowed in selected state parks

From a news release:

Limited deer hunting is taking place in three North Dakota state parks in 2010 — Fort Stevenson State Park near Garrison, Grahams Island State Park near Devils Lake and Fort Ransom State Park in the Sheyenne River Valley.

Beginning Oct. 1, bow hunting for antlered or antlerless deer will be permitted at Fort Stevenson State Park. Bow hunters wishing to hunt at the park must apply for a special park permit, available at the park office during regular business hours from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hunters must present a valid North Dakota bow license and unused tag to receive the special park permit.

There is no charge for the special permits, which will be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis, but hunters must display a current park entrance permit on their vehicles while on park land. For further information, contact Fort Stevenson State Park at 337-5576.

Hunters can harvest deer at Grahams Island State Park during the bow, gun and muzzleloader seasons. Grahams Island will also be open for turkey hunting beginning Oct. 9. Again, hunters must have the appropriate licenses and unused tag, a park entrance sticker and must apply for a special park hunting permit.

The permits, issued on a first-come, first-served basis, are available at the park office during regular business hours from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by writing or calling the park at 152 S. Duncan Road, Devils Lake, ND 58301, phone 766-4015.

A valid special park permit is required to possess a bow or firearm in Grahams Island State Park with the exception of Unit 7, but there is a restricted area along the road with 440 signs marking a boundary where no hunting is allowed.

Grahams Island State Park will be closed to all visitors except hunters during the deer gun season from Nov. 5 through Nov. 21.

Fort Ransom State Park allows deer hunting during the regular season beginning Nov. 5 and concluding Nov. 21.

Hunters must have tags for Unit 2 G1 along with a special park hunting permit issued by Fort Ransom State Park staff. The area of the park open to hunting will be the northern two-thirds of the park. Hunters have to pay the park entrance fee, unless they have an annual state park permit. ATVs are prohibited along with deer stands or off-road travel by any motorized travel. The south campground will be open, but hunting will not be allowed in the area adjacent to the campground.

For more information about Fort Ransom State Park or to make camping reservations, contact the park at 701-973-4331.

Hunting is not permitted in any other state parks. State parks with year-round staff are open for late season camping, with reduced services. More information about North Dakota State Parks can be found at www.parkrec.nd.gov.

Hunting petition approved for ballot

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger notified the media this morning that he’s certified the hunting petition for the ballot.

It will be identified as Statutory Measure No. 2.   

Additional information and contact information related to this petition is available at http://www.nd.gov/sos/electvote/elections/pending-measures.html.

Dove season opens Sept. 1

News release from Game and Fish:

North Dakota’s dove season opens statewide Sept. 1, and hunters need to register with the Harvest Information Program prior to hunting.

The daily limit is 15 and possession limit is 30. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. The season is open through Oct. 30.

All dove hunters must possess a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and a general game and habitat license, regardless of age. In addition, hunters ages 16 and older need a small game license.

Hunters who purchase a hunting license through the state Game and Fish Department’s electronic licensing system (gf.nd.gov) or instant licensing telephone number at (800) 406-6409 can easily get HIP certified.

Otherwise, hunters can access the department’s website, or call (888) 634-4798 and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate.

Those who registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required only once per year. However, hunters must HIP register in each state for which they are licensed before hunting migratory game birds.

Petition turned in part 2

Yesterday, the North Dakota secretary of state’s office also received the petition from the committee proposing the statutory initiative relating to captive hunting of exotic and native game animals.

The committee said it collected 13,860 signatures. To get on the November ballot, 12,844 signatures of qualified North Dakota voters are needed.

You can read the official wording here.

No pronghorn hunting this year

North Dakota Game and Fish biologists found the statewide pronghorn population is 37 percent lower than last year and down more than 50 percent from 2008 due to severe winter weather.

Therefore, the Game and Fish Department will not recommend a pronghorn hunting season in 2010, according to a news release.

Bruce Stillings, a big game biologist in Dickinson, said two severe winters with high adult mortality rates, followed by poor production, has dropped the statewide population estimate to 6,500 pronghorn. Since 2003, the statewide population has been at or above 10,000 animals, including two years with more than 15,000.

“We need to give these populations an opportunity to recover. Our numbers are declining with few yearlings observed due to poor production in 2009, which was the lowest documented on record, followed by last year’s tough winter,” Stillings said in a statement. “Production was better this year, but still below long-term averages in all management regions.”

Survey results indicate the northern Badlands population is doing the best, while pronghorn in the western Bowman management area are in the poorest condition.

Biologists will continue to monitor pronghorn numbers in the future. When the population returns to a level capable of withstanding a harvest, the season will reopen.

The 2010 pronghorn season will be closed to both gun and archery hunters. Applicants who have accumulated preference points will maintain their points. Individuals who have already purchased an archery license will receive a refund.

Pheasant numbers via Game and Fish

   For the pheasant crowd out there, here’s some info from a Game and Fish news release:

Pheasant Crowing Counts Completed

North Dakota’s spring pheasant crowing count survey revealed a 6 percent decrease statewide compared to last year, according to Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the state Game and Fish Department.

The number of crows heard in the northwest was down 16 percent from 2009, while counts in the southwest and southeast were relatively unchanged from last year. In the northeast where there are fewer birds, the counts decreased 10 percent.

“This past winter did not appear to have a role in the lower crowing counts,” Kohn said. “It is probably the result of a lower number of adult birds surviving the winter of 2008-09, coupled with poor production in spring 2009 because of cool, wet weather at the time of the hatch, resulting in chick mortality and fewer young entering the population last fall.”

Kohn said the good news from this spring is the quality of cover will benefit birds and broods of all upland species.

“Pheasants are finding nesting and brooding cover in fair quantity and great quality,” he added. “Native, warm season plants are doing extremely well and one would anticipate a good number of insects and eventually grasshoppers to become available with this type of habitat component.”

In addition, the early June weather has been better than the last two springs. “Recent downpours in some areas may jeopardize broods in some localized spots, but we have not experienced cool temperatures associated with these showers,” Kohn said. “I think production should be much better than in 2008 and 2009.”

Even though the crowing count survey provides good trend data on the status of roosters, Kohn said it does not provide information on the status of the adult hen population.

“Hens are the segment of the population that determines the fall population,” he said. “In spring 2009, field personnel noted the low number of hens with roosters (1-2 hens per rooster) indicating the hen population might be smaller than usual. This spring there were no such observations reported.”

Spring crowing count data has little to do with predicting the fall population. It does not measure population density, but is an indicator of the spring rooster population based on a trend of number of crows heard. Brood surveys, which begin in mid-July and are completed by September, provide an indicator of the summer’s pheasant production and provide insight into what to expect for a fall pheasant population.

Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stopping at predetermined intervals, and counting the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a two-minute period during the stop. The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to previous years’ data.


Game and Fish Summarizes 2009 Pheasant Season

Not as many pheasant hunters in the field meant fewer roosters in the bag in 2009.

Last fall’s pheasant harvest was 651,700, down from 776,700 in 2008. The number of total hunters decreased 18 percent to 88,400. The number of resident hunters was down 20 percent to 59,700, while nonresident pheasant hunter numbers decreased 15 percent to 28,700. Birds bagged per hunter increased from 7.2 to 7.4, and each hunter spent an average of 4.4 days afield.

Counties with the highest percentage of pheasants taken by resident hunters were Hettinger, 7.6; Burleigh, 7.0; Morton, 6.6; McLean, 6.2; and Stark, 6.0.

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Hettinger, 21.4 percent; Bowman, 8.1; Emmons, 5.9; McIntosh, 5.7; and Dickey, 5.5.

Annual pheasant season statistics are determined by a mail survey of resident and nonresident hunters.