Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Equipment on Wildlife Management Areas

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds hunters that tree stands, ground blinds and game cameras cannot be placed on state wildlife management areas prior to Aug. 20.

Equipment set out prior to Aug. 20, or left on a WMA after Jan. 31 is considered abandoned property and is subject to removal.

In addition, an equipment registration number, or the owner’s name, address and telephone number, must be displayed on all equipment requiring identification.

Owners can generate an equipment registration number by visiting My Account at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. One registration number will be issued that can be used on all equipment that requires identification.

Youth Waterfowl Clinic in Bismarck

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters program is a primary sponsor for a free youth waterfowl hunting clinic Aug. 17 in Bismarck. Ducks Unlimited is hosting the event.


The clinic is for youth ages 16 and younger, and is held at the DU Great Plains Regional Office. Sessions include decoy spreads, blind safety and duck calling. In addition, a shooting training event is available at Capital City Sporting Clays.


The workshop will run from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Space is limited.


Preregistration is required by calling Jennifer Kross at 701-202-8896, or emailing jkross@ducks.org.


The Game and Fish Department’s Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters program provides grant dollars to help local communities and organizations fund events that promote youth hunting and shooting sports. For more information, contact outreach biologist Pat Lothspeich at 701-328-6332.

Swan Hunt Applications Online

Swan hunters who are interested in applying for a 2018 license can now submit an online application through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Paper applications are no longer available.


North Dakota residents and nonresidents are eligible to apply. The resident swan license is $10, while the nonresident fee is $30. The deadline for applying is Aug. 15.


The statewide tundra swan hunting season is Sept. 29 - Dec. 30. A total of 2,700 licenses are available. Successful applicants will receive a tag to take one swan during the season. Since swans are classified as waterfowl, nonresidents may hunt them only during the period their nonresident waterfowl license is valid.

Have you read? July ND Outdoors magazine

The 2018 July  North Dakota Outdoors magazine is available FREE online right now here.

You’ll find ND Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand’s column Matters Of Opinion inside the cover.

In summer 1993, things changed. And as many of us in North Dakota remember, we were certainly ready for change.In July of that year, a month that still remains the wettest month in our state’s recorded history, the heavens opened up and kicked off what would be the end of a 5-year drought.


Communications Supervisor Craig Bihrle continues on with  Diary of a Wet Cycle

Priority Lakes came about after an honest assessment of what 5 years of drought had done to the state’s fishing resources. Of about 180 fishing waters in the state at the time, Game and Fish was going to focus its efforts on 60 of them, “…until water levels return to normal.”

Ron Wilson Back Cast gives his personal perspective on the change in North Dakota landscape from 25 years ago.

It’s been said that bashing the weather is a waste of words, considering many of us couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change now and again.


Early Canada Goose Season Announced

North Dakota’s early Canada goose season is set, and bag limits and licensing requirements are the same as last year.


However, one major change from last year is that the state Game and Fish Department has restructured the Canada goose hunting zones.


Migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said the new structure addresses depredation issues and provides additional hunting opportunities.


“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.


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.


The early season opens on Aug. 15 in all three zones. Closing dates are Sept. 7 in the Missouri River zone, Sept. 15 in the western zone and Sept. 21 in the eastern zone.


The early Canada goose season has a limit of 15 daily and 45 in possession.


Limits and shooting hours for the early season are different from the regular season, while the zone boundaries will remain the same. Shooting hours during the early season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.


Residents 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.


A federal duck stamp for hunters age 16 and older, and Harvest Information Program certification, are both required beginning Sept. 1. Those who HIP registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required in each state only once per year.


Waterfowl rest areas, closed to hunting during the regular season, are open during the early season. Most land in these rest areas is private, so hunters may need permission to hunt.


The early hunting season is intended to reduce local Canada goose numbers. Despite liberalized regulations the past several years, with longer seasons, large bag limits and expanded shooting hours, the statewide population remains high, with numbers well above population goals.


For additional information and regulations, hunters should refer to the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

Howie Receives Professional of the Year Award

North Dakota Game and Fish Department assistant private land coordinator Doug Howie was recently honored with the 2018 Professional of the Year Award by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

According to the WAFWA press release, “Howie was recognized for his consistent professionalism and resourcefulness in administering North Dakota’s Private Lands Open to Sportsmen program. PLOTS is one of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s highest profile programs, and Howie is a critical player in its success. PLOTS is widely recognized as one of the most successful access programs in the country, and Howie’s dedication has impacted thousands of sportsmen and women.”

The award was announced July 16 at WAFWA’s annual conference in Eugene, OR.

WAFWA represents 24 western states and Canadian provinces, encompassing more than 40 percent of North America including two-thirds of the United States. Recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife, WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.

Anglers Should Fish Responsibly, Keep Fish Caught in Deep Water

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel encourage anglers to keep fish caught from depths of more than 25 feet, rather than practice catch-and-release.

Scott Gangl, Game and Fish fisheries management section leader, said while catch-and-release is often encouraged under the right conditions, fish reeled in from this depth will likely die if released.

“Fish caught from deep water likely won’t survive because of the extreme change in water pressure,” Gangl said.

Change in water pressure will cause the swim bladder to expand, Gangl said, which means fish can no longer control balance. In addition, he said other internal injuries will likely happen, such as ruptured blood vessels or internal organs.

This can happen in any deep water body, Gangl said, but it is especially noteworthy for this time of the year in Lake Sakakawea.

“As water warms during summer, fish tend to move to deeper, cooler water,” he added. “This is particularly true for walleye in the big lake, where walleye follow their primary forage of rainbow smelt to deeper depths as summer progresses.”

Anglers fishing at least 25 feet deep should make the commitment to keep what they catch, and once they reach their limit to stop fishing at that depth.

“Our simple message is for anglers to keep fish that are caught from these depths, or to fish in shallower water when practicing catch-and-release,” Gangl said.

Hunting Guide and Outfitter Test Set

The next guide and outfitter written examination is Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department office in Bismarck. The test is given periodically to anyone interested in becoming a hunting guide or outfitter in the state.


In addition to passing a written exam, qualifications for becoming a guide include a background check for criminal and game and fish violations; certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and standard first aid; and employment by or contract with a licensed hunting outfitter.


Hunting outfitter eligibility requirements include the guide qualifications, as well as an individual must have held a hunting guide license for two years; and must have proof of liability insurance.


Interested individuals are required to preregister by calling the Game and Fish Department’s enforcement office at 328-6604.

Some Hunter Education Classes Available

Adults and children looking to take a hunter education class in 2018 are reminded to enroll at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.


Although the majority of classes were already held this year, classes will still be added as they become finalized.


Interested students must click on the education link. Classes are listed by city, and can also be sorted by start date. To register for a class, click on “enroll” next to the specific class, and follow the simple instructions. Personal information is required.


Individuals interested in receiving a notice by email when each hunter education class is added can click on the “subscribe to news and alerts” link found below the news section on the Game and Fish home page. Check the box labeled “hunter education” under the education program updates.


In addition, SMS text notifications of new classes can be sent directly to a cell phone. Simply text “NDGF HunterClass” to 468311 to subscribe to this feature.


State law requires anyone born after December 31, 1961 to pass a certified hunter education course to hunt in the state. Hunter education is mandatory for youth who are turning 12 years old. Children who turn age 11 during the calendar year can take the class.