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Why did North Dakota’s game and fish violations rise in 2023 over 2022?



Bismarck, North Dakota – While most hunters and fishers in North Dakota abide by the laws, regrettably, some people try to get away with things.

Game and fish infractions increased in 2023 compared to 2022, however, there are a few causes for this.

“One, we didn’t have as many open districts from retirements or resignations, so more wardens out in the field working equals finding more violations. The other reason would be we generally see an increase in violations the first year of the new boat license cycle. This year was the first year, so boat license violations were up significantly,” said Scott Winkelman, chief game warden for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

In North Dakota, there are a few other frequent infractions that happen annually.

“Hunting without a license, fishing without a license, failing to carry a license and, also, inadequate number of life preservers or PFDs continues to be high — the good news was it was lower than it was the previous year,” said Winkelman.

Winkelman added that wardens noticed a rise in fish exceeding limits in live wells due to the excellent fishing conditions of the previous year. In 2023, there were more than 50,000 field contacts for Wardens.

“So, we started keeping track of field contacts, which means just the number of people that we are reaching and visiting without in the field, whether that’s checking a license, checking bag limits, answering questions, checking equipment,” said Winkelman.

The majority of people abide by the letter of the law, and interactions between game wardens and outdoor enthusiasts are typically amicable. However, if you do happen to see a violation, there are things you may do to help game wardens.

“What we would encourage you to do is collect as much information as possible and get as specific as possible — the color of a vehicle, number of individuals, license plate number — and call the Report All Poachers hotline at (701) 328-9921 and relay that information to them and let them contact the game warden to handle it,” said Winkelman.

All proceeds from the citations go to the county school fund as required by state law. None of the money from the citations is given to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.