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2014 WINTER NEWSLETTER But First…Ice Fishing on the Prairie Sven and Ole heard so much about the good ice fishing on Hoffer Lake, by McClusky, they decided to try it. On the way they stopped at the local bait shop to buy bait and tackle. Sven said to Ole, "We're going to need an ice pick." They got it and took off. About two hours later Ole was back at the shop , "We're going to need another dozen ice picks." The shopkeeper sold Ole the picks, and he left. But an hour later Sven came back and said, "We need all the ice picks you've got." The shopkeeper became alarmed, "How you boys doing out there?" "Not too good," said Sven. "We haven't got the boat in the water yet."

----------------------------------------Greetings All! While we are used to tough winters in North Dakota it seems nearly everyone is getting a taste of winter’s worst this year. Our winter at the ranch started early, with -25 below temps in early December and lots of snow. It has not improved much from there. We tend to get either “open” winters with little snow or more traditional winters with lots of snow. Looks like 2014 will be the latter. Long winters are tough on the resident wildlife of course but usually have the opposite effect on waterfowl, as more snow equals more run-off and full spring ponds -- and increased spring waterfowl production. The weather during spring nesting season also has a direct impact on the nesting success of our upland birds, namely pheasants,

huns and sharp-tail grouse. Cold and wet weather results in fewer successful nests and poor brood production. But this remains to be seen; it is not unusual for a harsh winter on the northern plains to be followed by a mild spring.

ON THE LEGISLATIVE FRONT Despite winter’s icy lock on the landscape there are still a few things happening in the background relating to North Dakota wildlife. For nonresident hunters, our state legislature holds the key to how and when and how much it will cost to hunt in North Dakota. The good news is that the legislature is NOT in session this year, so the rules and hunting frameworks we had last year should remain relatively the same for 2014. Modest license fee increases were imposed by the legislature to take effect in 2014 for both residents and nonresidents, but nothing major. The ND Game and Fish Department operates on these fees so the $$ are being put to good use. We don’t anticipate any onerous non-resident license quotas or other nonsense, at least not until the legislature gathers again in 2015. Realistically, the oil boom in western North Dakota (well west of our ranch) is taking up a lot of time and energy at the statehouse these days and non-resident hunting issues have been put on the backburner.

ND GAME AND FISH DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES We attended the local fall ND Fish and Game Department Advisory Meeting in December. These

meetings are held across the state each fall and spring. This year, because of the poor deer hunting season, the department is also hosting deer hunting advisory meetings in February. Unlike many states, the top brass for Game and Fish attend these meetings with current information and respond to any issues raised. Looming on the horizon, Game and Fish Officials are very concerned about the conversion of CRP acres to cropland, as this has a direct impact on the availability of wildlife habitat, especially for resident wildlife such as deer and pheasants. However, we have noticed an abundance of deer on the ranch and surrounding area. Related to this were concerns about the prevalence of coyotes on the landscape, as they are significant predators of deer fawns. In response the department has developed the Coyote Catalog, which lists landowners inviting hunters onto their land to hunt coyotes. This catalog is available now -- see for more information on the program.

$7. These are solid prices for coyotes and really high prices for muskrats.

SPRING GEESE North Dakota’s spring light goose season opens Feb. 15 and continues through May 18. Nonresidents, regardless of age, need a 2014 spring light goose season license. The cost is $50 and the license is good statewide. Nonresidents who hunt the spring season remain eligible to buy a fall season license. The spring season does not count against the 14-day fall hunting season regulation. A federal duck stamp is not required for either residents or nonresidents. Most snows in our area pass thru in early to mid-April. Licenses are available only from the Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office, the department’s website at, or by calling (800) 406-6409.

As many of you know Prairie Smoke Ranch is located in Nonresident Waterfowl Zone #2, the smallest of the three zones, and one of two zones which restricts hunters to just 7 days of hunting in the zone with the standard nonresident waterfowl license. After discussing these zones with department officials it appears the origins of the zones are politically rather than biologically based. And it appears the zones are here to stay. Following our waterfowl hunting season we trapped coyotes on the ranch and ended up with 10. This was a lot of coyotes in a relatively small area. We also trapped muskrats while the weather was reasonable and tallied over 150 on our ponds. Coyotes in the round (i.e. not skinned) are bringing $30 each while the marsh rats are going for about

PRAIRIE SMOKE RANCH ACTIVITIES Our hunters put the new bunkhouses thru the paces last year and as a result we plan to improve the sinks and work out a few other minor issues

such as better lighting for grilling outdoors and some supplemental heat in the new bathroom. We have laid in enough seed to give us a full range of food plot options again for this spring. Our plan is to plant peas this year in the large field south of the house, with corn and possibly soybeans in some of the smaller plots. Once again we will take down ½ of the hay and leave ½ for nesting cover.

HUNTING IN 2014 4/1/14 deadline for discounted leases We are coming off another solid year of duck hunting. As noted in earlier updates, 2013 was the year of the bluebill (or scaup). We took many 3bird limits off our Bluebill Lake throughout the season. Mixed in were the usual puddlers, geese and upland birds for well-rounded game bags. Looks like at least one of the bunkhouses will be booked up in late September for upland hunting – still have some open days but will depend on the dates. The good news is that we still have some great October slots available for waterfowl hunting, and we’ve added a “no-risk” late hunt trying to hit that sweet spot just before ice-up of the big water.

Book Now To Save $600 On Your October Lease! The group lease discount for waterfowl hunting ends on April 1, 2014. If you are interested in a waterfowl hunt this fall please take a hard look at our available October dates on the website ( and score a $600 discount off a $4,800 lease for six hunters by booking right now. With regulations stable this year and lots of water on the property, we’re looking for another great season in 2014 and don’t see much risk in booking early. Additional discounts are also available for youth hunters on all our leases. We are also offering a late season upland/pheasant hunt in November for the first time. Details on the website. SOME CHANGES TO THE HUNTING OPERATION After much consideration we are making some minor changes to our hunting framework on the ranch. First, we will no longer take bookings from groups without dogs. We have already received some negative feedback on this but over the years we have found that groups without dogs don’t put up nearly as many birds (primarily upland birds) as groups with good dog power but more importantly dogless groups lose more crippled and downed birds. Secondly, we will no longer be able to provide a motor for the big boat on our Bluebill Lake. Feel free to bring your own small motor (a four or six horse works fine) or use the boat and oars provided when hunting the blind on the West Side of the lake. All the other boats will still have oars as provided in the past.

SUMMER 2014 We welcome our 2014 clients to stop in for a short stay if you are in the area this summer. In exchange for free lodging you will be assigned a farm chore or two‌we may also be able to scare up a few cold beverages. This is a great chance to learn about our operation before the demands of the hunting season are upon us. The landscape is alive with colorful prairie flowers and grasses at this time. You may even get to experience the fields glowing with fireflies in the evening or the northern lights. Bring the whole family (dogs welcome). Shoot us an e-mail or call if you are interested in booking a hunt or have any questions about the ranch – our cell # is 612-454-8781.

Dan and Jeanie Prairie Smoke Ranch

Prairie Smoke Ranch Winter 2014 Newsletter  
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