Hunting safety during the late harvest season

GARDNER, ND (Valley News Live)-- North Dakota deer hunting kicked off Friday and Minnesota hunters can start Saturday.

But, there's something unique this year that poses a danger for the people who own, or farm, the land.

They are the farmers who still haven't finished their harvest.

Normally this time of year you would find Eric Pueppke in the fields, wearing bright orange and hunting for deer.

Instead, he's putting in 15 hour days behind the wheel of a combine, trying to get his crops out of the ground.

"It's been a real challenge this year," Pueppke says. "We've just about got all of the beans off, but we've got all the corn left."

Pueppke has been farming his entire life. He says there's not a whole lot of normalcy when it comes to his job, but that this harvest season is unlike anything he's ever seen.

"The corn could take three weeks to a month," Pueppke says. "It's a little wetter this year. Hopefully we don't have to let it stand until spring, but we may be combining until early to late December."

With farmers like Pueppke still in the fields, experts say, it's more important than ever for hunters to be aware, it's not just them and the deer out there.

"Hunters want to harvest their deer and farmers want to harvest their crop," Doug Leier, a biologist at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, says. "It's all about being considerate."

Leier says it's a different situation for hunters staying safe this year. He says it's a good idea for hunters to check out some public hunting land to reduce the overlap with farmers.

"We want to make sure that when hunters see a deer, they stop and look and make sure a combine isn't on the other side," Leier says.

As an avid deer hunter himself, Pueppke says, when in doubt, if the Deere is green, don't shoot. If it's brown, fire away.

Leier says you can find more information about public hunting land online.

He adds they've got map books you can look at, at the same place you get your hunting license.

And because of that tricky harvest season for farmers, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture approved the disaster designation in dozens of North Dakota counties.

Assistance is available for farmers and ranchers who are struggling with how weather has impacted their crops.

Record fall rain, flooding, a blizzard early in October and cold temperatures have delayed the fall harvest, and hundreds of millions of dollars have already been lost.