FROM THE DAKOTAS
2018 Waterfowl Season Set
North Dakota's 2018 waterfowl season opens for North Dakota residents Sept. 22, while nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl Sept. 29.
The season for swans opens Sept. 29 for both residents and nonresidents who have purchased a swan license.
Hunters may take six ducks per day with the following restrictions: five mallards of which two may be hens, three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two canvasbacks and two pintails. Hunters can take an additional two blue-winged teal from Sept. 22 through Oct. 7. The daily limit of five mergansers may include no more than two hooded mergansers. For ducks and mergansers, the possession limit is three times the daily limit.
The hunting season for Canada geese will close Dec. 16 in the eastern zone, Dec. 21 in the western zone and Dec. 28 in the Missouri River zone. The season for whitefronts closes Dec. 2, while the season on light geese is open through Dec. 30.
Shooting hours for all geese are one-half hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. each day through Nov. 3. Beginning Nov. 4, shooting hours are extended until 2 p.m. each day.
Extended shooting hours for all geese are permitted from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset on Saturdays and Wednesdays through Nov. 21, and on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays from Nov. 22 through the end of each season.
The bag limit for Canada geese during the regular season is eight daily and 24 in possession, except in the Missouri River zone where the limit is five daily and 15 in possession.
The daily limit on whitefronts is three with nine in possession, and light goose is 50 daily, with no possession limit.
In accordance with state law, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or conservation PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) areas from Oct. 6-12.
Hunters who do not HIP certify when they buy a North Dakota license, can add it through the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, or by calling 888-634-4798 and recording the HIP number on their printed license.Those who registered to hunt North Dakota's spring light goose season or August Management Take/Early September Canada goose season do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required in each state only once per year.
Hunters should refer to the North Dakota 2018-19 Hunting and Trapping Guide for further details on the waterfowl season.�
Back to top
Pheasant and Partridge Numbers Similar to Last Year, Sharptails Down
North Dakota’s roadside surveys conducted in late July and August indicate total pheasant and Hungarian partridge numbers this fall are similar to last year, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down.
R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the survey shows total pheasants observed per 100 miles are down 2 percent from last year. In addition, broods per 100 miles were unchanged, while the average brood size was up 27 percent. The final summary is based on 278 survey runs made along 101 brood routes across North Dakota.
“Even though survey data suggests pheasant production was certainly better than last year, hunters will still notice the lack of production from 2017 in the overall population,” Gross said.
Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate total pheasants were down 32 percent and broods observed down 29 percent from 2017. For every 100 survey miles, observers counted an average of six broods and 45 pheasants. The average brood size was 5.2 chicks. Despite the population decline, Gross said the southwest still holds the most pheasants in the state.
Results from the southeast show birds are up 63 percent from last year, and the number of broods up 77 percent. Observers counted five broods and 40 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.8. Gross said while some areas of the state show a large increase in percentages from last year, such as in the southeast, it is important to keep in mind this is based off a low population in those areas in 2017.
Statistics from the northwest indicate pheasants are up 9 percent from last year, with broods up 4 percent. Observers recorded three broods and 26 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was 6.5.
The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed two broods and 19 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was 5.8.
Sharptails observed per 100 miles are down 49 percent statewide from 2017, while partridge are up 7 percent.
“Hunting will be slower than last season in most of the state, and all indications are that hunters will see significantly lower numbers of grouse statewide,” Gross said. “There will be localized areas of good hunting opportunities, but in general hunting will be fair at best.”
Despite increases in sharptail lek counts this spring for eastern North Dakota, brood survey results show statewide declines in number of grouse and broods observed per 100 miles, and a slight decline in average brood size. Observers recorded 0.8 sharptail broods and 6.8 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was 4.55.
Although partridge numbers have shown a slight increase, Gross said the majority of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. Partridge densities in general, he said, are too low to target. Observers recorded 0.4 partridge broods and 4.4 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 7.03.
The 2018 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 6 and continues through Jan. 6, 2019. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Sept. 29-30.
The 2018 grouse and partridge seasons open Sept. 8 and continue through Jan. 6, 2019.
Back to top
New zone structure to provide extra goose hunting opportunities in North Dakota
The early Canada goose season began in 1999 and there’s no need for a history lesson beyond the point that the season was then, and remains today, an effort to help increase harvest on giant Canada geese that nest in North Dakota.
Over the course of nearly 20 years, biologists and wildlife managers have tweaked the season to provide more opportunities for hunter success.
This year, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has adopted a new zone structure designed to provide extra hunting opportunities in September, without taking away quality late-season opportunities that are typically available in December.
Under the new structure, the state is now divided into three Canada goose zones – Missouri River, western and eastern – instead of two. Early Canada goose hunting opportunities open August 15 in all zones, but close on different dates.
“To get extra days of Canada goose hunting in September, you need to take them from December,” Game and Fish migratory game bird management supervisor said in the OUTDOORS article, and so this year the early season in the eastern zone ends Sept. 21, six days longer than last year.
“Basically, our worst Canada goose-landowner conflicts are in the eastern half of the state and getting those extra days back in September gets some more harvest pressure on those birds,” Szymanski said. “At the same time, that part of the state doesn’t have reliable, consistent hunting opportunities late into December.”
Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows North Dakota, which is located in the Central Flyway, a limited number (107) of days to hunt Canada geese starting September 1, waterfowl managers need to make adjustments on when to best use those days on a goose population that is above management objectives, and provide good hunting opportunities.
And that’s what Game and Fish has done to increase hunting options later in the season, when Canada geese staging on the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea can provide excellent opportunities well into December. The Missouri River and western zones have shorter earlier seasons than the eastern zone, but longer regular seasons.
Early Season Details
Zone 1 (Missouri River Zone)
● Opens – Aug. 15
● Closes – Sept. 7
Zone 2 (Western Zone)
● Opens – Aug. 15
● Closes – Sept. 15
Zone 3 (Eastern Zone)
● Opens – Aug. 15
● Closes – Sept. 21
In all three zones, the early season daily limit is 15, with a possession limit of 45. Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to sunset.
To hunt geese during the early season all residents regardless of age need a $5 early Canada goose license, and a general game and habitat license. Also, residents age 16 and older need a small game license.
Nonresidents need only a $50 early Canada goose license, and the license is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license.
Harvest Information Program certification is required, and beginning Sept. 1 a federal duck stamp for hunters age 16 and older is needed. More details are available at the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov
Back to top
Duck Brood Numbers Up from Last Year
State Game and Fish Department biologists expect a fall duck flight from North Dakota that is up 12 percent from last year, based on observations from the annual mid-July waterfowl production survey.
This year’s duck brood index was up 37 percent from last year, and showed 5.11 broods per square mile, an increase of 39 percent. Average brood size is unchanged at 6.76 ducklings per brood.
Migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said conditions were pretty dry after the May breeding duck survey, which indicated duck numbers and wetlands were down. “But most of the state received abundant rainfall from late May through early July, which was encouraging for the summer survey,” he said.
The July survey showed duck production in the northern tier of the state was very good, and Szymanski mentioned even areas farther south were still quite favorable. "We have been seeing good numbers of broods since the summer survey, and especially lots of young birds, which indicates renesting efforts were very strong," Szymanski said.
Mallards, gadwall and blue-winged teal are the top three duck species that nest in North Dakota, and together they accounted for about 75 percent of the broods observed in the summer survey. Mallard brood numbers were up about 22 percent from last year, gadwalls were up about 47 percent, and blue-winged teal broods were up 45 percent. Blue-winged teal are typically the most prevalent breeding duck in North Dakota. In addition, pintail brood numbers were up 142 percent.
Observers also count water areas during the summer survey, and this year’s water index was up 11 percent from last year. Szymanski said wetlands in the north central were still below average, but other areas were close to or slightly above average.
“Wetland conditions are still on the dry side, as the early summer rains slowed down quite a bit,” he added. “The larger basins are in pretty good shape, and even some of the local smaller basins that were dry this spring were filled from the earlier rainfall. But the small, shallow basins are beginning to show the effects and have the potential to dry up before the hunting season begins.”
Game and Fish biologists will conduct a separate survey in September to assess wetland conditions heading into the waterfowl hunting seasons.
The Game and Fish summer duck brood survey involves 18 routes that cover all sectors of the state, except west and south of the Missouri River. Biologists count and classify duck broods and water areas within 220 yards on each side of the road.
The survey started in the mid-1950s, and all routes used today have been in place since 1965.
Back to top
2018 Small Game, Waterfowl and Furbearer Regulations Set
North Dakota’s 2018 small game, waterfowl and furbearer regulations are set and most season structures are similar to last year.
However, one major change from last year involves Canada goose hunting zones.
The Canada goose hunting season is divided into three zones – Missouri River, western and eastern. The Missouri River Canada goose zone has the same boundary as last year, while the western zone has the same boundary as the high plains duck unit, excluding the Missouri River zone. The eastern zone has the same boundary as the low plains duck unit.
Other noteworthy items include:
- Opening day for North Dakota residents is Sept. 22 for ducks, geese, coots and mergansers. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Sept. 29.
- The daily limit on pintails has increased from one to two.
- The prairie chicken and sage grouse seasons will remain closed due to low populations.
- In accordance with state law, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or conservation PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) areas from Oct. 6-12.
In addition, the state’s waterfowl, small game and furbearer regulations will have a new look this fall.
No longer printed as separate documents, North Dakota’s 2018-19 Hunting and Trapping Guide includes three main sections – upland game, migratory game bird and furbearer/trapping.
The 52-page document offers much of the same information hunters and trappers rely on, but in a much more user-friendly format. In addition, the guide also features a 4-page colored duck identification guide, aquatic nuisance species information, boating safety for hunters and Tom Roster’s Nontoxic Shot Lethality Table.
Hunters and trappers can find the guide by visiting the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Printed guides will be available at vendor locations in mid-August.
For a complete listing of opening and closing dates, and daily and possession limits, refer to the table on pages 4-5 of the guide.
Back to top
Back to top