Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Spring Pheasant Count Up from Last Year

North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is up 15% from the same time last year, according to the state Game and Fish Department’s 2020 spring crowing count survey.

R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was up statewide, with increases ranging from 1% to 18% in the primary regions holding pheasants.

“We entered spring with a larger breeding population compared to last year,” Gross said. “Hens should be in good physical shape for nesting season and cover should be plentiful from the residual moisture left from last fall.”

However, Gross said there is concern with drought conditions in the western part of the state, and whether insects will be available to chicks for brood rearing.

“I am hopeful for above-average chick survival due to the lush cover and predicted warm temperatures, but we can use some rain,” Gross said. “But we don’t want any severe weather events.”

While the spring number is an indicator, Gross said it does not predict what the fall population will look like. Brood surveys, which begin in late July and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.

Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stop at predetermined intervals, and count the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a 2-minute period during the stop.

The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to the previous year’s data, providing a trend summary.

Deer Lottery Held, Licenses Remain

North Dakota’s deer gun lottery has been held and individual results are available online at the state Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

Chief of administrative services Kim Kary said moving to an online lottery has resulted in reducing the time between the application deadline and the lottery run date.

“It’s a major benefit in moving to an all online lottery application process,” Kary said.

More than 6,200 deer gun licenses remain. Only resident applicants who were unsuccessful in the lottery can apply for remaining licenses.

More than 81,000 individuals applied for a deer gun lottery license, in addition to about 12,600 gratis applicants. The 2020 deer gun proclamation allows for 69,050 deer gun season licenses.

Unsuccessful applicants can apply online for remaining licenses beginning July 1. The deadline for applying is July 22.

Remaining Deer Gun Licenses

(B = Any Antlerless   C = Antlered Whitetail   D = Antlerless Whitetail   F = Antlerless Mule Deer)

Unit Type Available
2H B 110
3A1 B 527
3B1 D 88
3B2 D 117
3B2 F 147
3B3 D 521
3C D 397
3D1 B 28
3D1 D 223
3D2 B 40
3D2 D 154
3E1 D 216
3E2 B 41
3E2 D 180
3F1 B 172
3F1 D 446
3F2 B 1018
3F2 C 96
3F2 D 786
4B D 130
4C D 86
4D D 95
4E D 113
4F D 359
4F F 185

WMA Regulations Prohibit Fireworks, Camping Restriction Lifted for Holiday

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds citizens that possession or use of fireworks on state wildlife management areas is prohibited.


The primary objective of a wildlife management area is to enhance wildlife production, provide hunting and fishing opportunities, and offer other outdoor recreational and educational uses that are compatible with these objectives. Only activities that would not disrupt the intentions of how these areas are managed are encouraged, and a fireworks display is not compatible.


In addition, the Game and Fish Department will lift the Tuesday-Wednesday no-camping restriction for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday week, which will allow overnight camping June 30 and July 1 on those WMAs that otherwise have this two-day restriction in place.


A complete list of WMA regulations is available on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov.

Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest

While contest guidelines for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest have change little from previous years, photographers are reminded to follow the guidelines for submitting their work.

Photographers who want to submit photos to the contest should go the Department’s website at gf.nd.gov/photo-contest. Then it is a matter of providing some pertinent information about the photo and uploading it.

Doing so helps both with ease of submitting photos for the photographer and managing those images for Department staff.

The contest is now open and the deadline for submitting photos is October 2. For more information or questions, contact Patrick Isakson, Department conservation biologist, at pisakson@nd.gov.

The contest has categories for nongame and game species, as well as plants/insects. An overall winning photograph will be chosen, with the number of place winners in each category determined by the number of qualified entries.

Contestants are limited to no more than five entries. Photos must have been taken in North Dakota.

By submitting an entry, photographers grant permission to Game and Fish to publish winning photographs in North Dakota OUTDOORS, and on the Department’s website.

2019 Upland Game Seasons Summarized

After two years of lower upland game populations, fewer hunters pursued these game birds last fall. With that said, North Dakota’s 2019 pheasant and sharp-tailed grouse harvests were down from 2018, while the number of Hungarian partridge taken last year was similar to the year before, according to statistics compiled by the state Game and Fish Department.


Upland game management supervisor Jesse Kolar said the overall harvest was down despite slight increases in most population survey estimates.


“This was likely due to continued declines in hunter numbers and hunter days afield following lower population trends,” Kolar added. “We also still have lower densities of upland game birds in areas that traditionally had much of the harvest – pheasant numbers were still low in the southwest and sharptail numbers remained low in the badlands.”


Nearly 50,000 pheasant hunters harvested 256,800 roosters (down 25%) in 2018, compared to 59,400 hunters and 342,600 roosters in 2018.


Counties with the highest percentage of pheasants taken were Hettinger, Divide, Bowman, Williams and McLean.


In 2019, 14,000 hunters harvested 34,300 sharp-tailed grouse (down 34%), compared to 15,200 hunters and 51,800 birds in 2018.


Counties with the highest percentage of sharptails taken were Mountrail, Burleigh, Ward, Stutsman and McKenzie.


Last year, 11,900 hunters harvested 32,600 Hungarian partridge (up 5%). In 2018, nearly 12,500 hunters harvested 31,200 Huns.


Counties with the highest percentage of Huns taken were Mountrail, Ward, McLean, Williams and Divide.

Public Reminded of Administrative Rules Hearing

Those planning to attend the public hearing to address proposed rule changes to North Dakota Administrative Code Title 30 are asked to contact the North Dakota Game and Fish Department prior to 5 p.m., Tuesday, June 16.


The hearing is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., Thursday, June 18 at the agency’s main office in Bismarck. Attendees can call 701-328-6305, or email ndgf@nd.gov.


The purpose and explanation of the proposed rule changes, along with the proposed rule language, may be reviewed on the Department’s website at gf.nd.gov. Written or oral comments on the proposed rules must be received by June 28, 2020 for consideration.


Anyone planning to attend the public hearing and needs special facilities or assistance relating to a disability should contact the Game and Fish Department, at the above phone number, at least seven days before the public hearing.

Game and Fish to Open Offices by Appointment Only

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will open offices June 8 to public access by appointment only, and under guidelines established by North Dakota Smart Restart. Facility occupancy must remain below 50%, therefore most Game and Fish staff will continue to work remotely.

Under moderate risk phase I, COVID-19 wellness screening will be required upon entering the building, and wearing a mask or cloth face covering is encouraged. Physical distancing must be followed. Personal appointments will only be available for those who can’t receive help by phone or online.

Hunters, anglers and water recreationists are reminded that all hunting and fishing license purchases, boat registrations and lottery applications are conducted online. Anyone needing help with buying a license, a boat registration or lottery application can receive assistance by calling 701-328-6300, or emailing ndgf@nd.gov.

Habitats Workshop Offered Online

Habitat of North Dakota, a workshop for teachers, environmental educators and anyone who works with youth, will be offered online June 30 to July 17.


Instructor Sherry Niesar said the program features new material using inquiry and project-based learning.


“The materials presented will align with the North Dakota Envirothon Wildlife learning objectives,” Niesar said. “Students will explore current issues in conservation management, North Dakota habitats, wildlife species and wildlife adaptations.”


Different instructional methods will be used to teach across the curriculum integrating subject areas. Curriculum materials are suitable for both elementary and secondary teachers. All supplies will be provided.


The workshop will contain many activities educators can use in the classroom, discussion of classroom and curriculum integration, and self-guided walking field trips at the location of the student’s choice, in their yard, or if needed, can be completed using nature programming or live webcams.


To register for the workshop, visit the Dickinson State University West River Teacher Center website. One graduate credit is available.


For more information, contact Sherry Niesar at 701-527-3714 or email sniesar@nd.gov.

Information Sought in Moose Poaching

North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials are looking for information in connection to a moose poaching case earlier this spring in the northeastern part of the state.

Five adult moose – three cows and two bulls – were shot and killed sometime around April 25 through April 30 about 6 miles southwest of Dunseith. According to law enforcement, one of the adult moose, a large cow, was pregnant with triplets, with two calves cut out of her.

If anyone has any information about the illegal taking of these animals, contact the Report All Poachers at 701-328-9921 or Jonathan Tofteland, Game and Fish Department district game warden, at 701-201-0703.

RAP is offering a $2,000 reward for any information that leads to a conviction.