Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Spring Duck Numbers Tallied

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 71st annual spring breeding duck survey conducted in May showed an index of 2.8 million birds, down 5 percent from last year.


Migratory game bird supervisor Mike Szymanski said even though the index is below 3 million for the second consecutive year, it still stands 16 percent above the long-term average (1948-2017) and is the 25th highest on record.


“Duck numbers are still hanging on, but are certainly better in some local areas,” Szymanski said.


Survey results indicate only shovelers (up 10 percent) and wigeon (up 7 percent) increased from their 2017 estimates. Mallards were stable (down 1 percent), while green-winged teal showed the largest decrease (down 20 percent). All other ducks were 3-17 percent below last year’s numbers. However, most species, with the exception of pintails, blue-winged teal and ruddy ducks, were well-above the 70-year average.


An interesting observation during the survey, Szymanski noted, was the lack of breeding effort for Canada geese. “We can attribute that to the late spring and overall dry conditions,” he said.


The number of temporary and seasonal wetlands was down from last year, as figures show the spring water index is down 34 percent.


“That was mostly felt in the shallow waters,” Szymanski said. “Similar to last year, there were a lot of wetlands that weren’t in good shape and were close to drying up.”


However, Szymanski said rainfall over the last couple weeks has improved wetland conditions since the survey. “If rain continues over the next month, wetland conditions in some regions will be conducive to raising broods,” he said.


Szymanski said concerns about habitat remain, as overall conditions weren’t very good with expiring Conservation Reserve Program acres, and habitat conversion to other uses.


The water index is based on basins with water, and does not necessarily represent the amount of water contained in wetlands or the type of wetlands represented.


The July brood survey provides a better idea of duck production and insight into expectations for this fall, Szymanski said, though hunting success is also influenced by bird movements before and during hunting seasons, and weather patterns during the fall migration.

Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest is now open, and the deadline for submissions is Oct. 1.

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.

Contest entries are limited to digital files submitted via email only. 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 magazine, and on the Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

Photographers can send emailed digital photos to photocontest@nd.gov, with individual photo file sizes limited to 5 MB or less. Game and Fish may contact photographers for original full resolution images if needed for publication.

All entries must be accompanied by the photographer’s name, address, phone number and email address. Other information such as photo site location and month taken are also useful.

For more information contact contest coordinator Pat Isaakson at 701-328-6300, or email Pat at ndgf@nd.gov.

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


Ron Wilson explains how the extended winter resulted in a Northern Pike Spawn Delayed

When North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists set trap nets in Lake Oahe in spring for the northern pike spawn, they were as late to the game as they’d been in years.


Ron also authored the story on Deer Gun Applications go Electronic  A law passed by the North Dakota Legislature requiring the Department to develop an all-electronic licensing system, and phase out the old paper license books, actually went into effect April 1, 2016.


The North Dakota State Water Commission explains the history and transition of lowhead dams and how State Agencies Work Together To Eliminate “Drowning Machines”


One of the unintentional consequences that materialized is that these lowhead dams created dangerous conditions that recreational river users may not be aware of or may underestimate.


Leave Baby Animals Alone, Watch for Deer

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department offers a simple message to well-intentioned humans who want to pick up and rescue what appear to be orphaned baby animals this time of year – don’t touch them. Whether it is a young fawn, duckling, cottontail rabbit or a songbird, it is better to just leave them alone.


More often than not, young animals are not abandoned or deserted, and the mother is probably nearby. Young wildlife are purposely placed into seclusion by their mothers to protect them from predators.


Anytime a young wild animal has human contact its chance for survival decreases significantly. It’s illegal to take wild animals home, and captive animals later returned to the wild will struggle to survive because they do not possess learned survival skills.


The only time a baby animal should be picked up is if it is in an unnatural situation, such as a young songbird found on a doorstep. In that case, the young bird could be moved to the closest suitable habitat.


Citizens should also steer clear of adult wildlife, such as deer or moose that might wander into urban areas. Crowding stresses animals, and this could lead to a potentially dangerous situation.


In addition, motorists are reminded to watch for deer along roadways. June is one of the peak months for deer‑vehicle accidents because young animals are dispersing from their home ranges. With deer more active during these months, the potential for car‑deer collisions increases.

First Fish Certificate

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is reminding parents to capture their little angler’s first catch on a specially designed First Fish certificate.

First Fish has no qualifying weights or measurements. The only requirement is the successful landing of a North Dakota fish. Certificates are available to all who request them, and have ample room for all the important information, such as name, age, lake and a short fish story, plus a blank space for a photograph big enough to contain the smile of the happiest little angler.


Free certificates are available by contacting the Game and Fish Department at 701-328-6300, or send an email to ndgf@nd.gov.

Missouri River Safety Day May 17

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department and Townsquare Media are sponsoring the Missouri River SPLASH – a recreation and boating safety event for everyone who enjoys the Missouri River.


The event is Thursday, May 17 in Mandan from 2-5 p.m. at Moritz Sport and Marine. Displays, hands-on activities, demonstrations, regulations, registrations and prizes are included.


The event is free, and people of all ages are invited to attend.


State law requires youngsters ages 12-15 who want to operate a boat or personal watercraft with at least a 10 horsepower motor to first pass the state’s Boat North Dakota safety course. In addition, some insurance companies give adult boat owners who pass the course a discount on boat insurance.


The Boat North Dakota safety course is free and available at the Game and Fish Department.

Pronghorn Hunting Season Statistics

Hunter success during last fall’s pronghorn hunting season was 75 percent, according to statistics provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Game and Fish issued 410 licenses (255 lottery and 155 gratis), and 366 hunters took 275 pronghorn, consisting of 264 bucks, 10 does and one fawn. Each hunter spent an average of 2.4 days afield.

Three percent of the harvest occurred during the archery season.

The 2018 pronghorn hunting season will be determined in July.


Game and Fish Sponsors Earth Day Project

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is once again celebrating Earth Day by sponsoring clean-up days on publicly owned or managed lands.


With Earth Day recognized April 22, each member of a school, Girl Scout, Boy Scout, 4-H club or youth organization who participates in cleaning up public lands through May will receive a specifically designed conservation patch.


Last winter the Game and Fish Department sponsored a contest for students ages 6-18 to design a North Dakota Earth Day Patch. Winners in the three age categories were Brooke Livingston of Kenmare (6-9), Abbey Peterson of Velva (10-13), and Deanna Rose of Grand Forks (14-18). Rose’s design was chosen as the contest winner, and will be used on this year’s Earth Day patch.


Groups participating in the Earth Day project are encouraged to take the following precautions to ensure safety: keep young people away from highways, lakes and rivers; and only allow older participants to pick up broken glass.


Interested participants are asked to contact Pat Lothspeich at 328-6332 to receive a reporting form for their project.

NASP State Tournament Results

While a spring snowstorm kept some of the record 750 registrants from attending, 600 archers did compete in the North Dakota National Archery in the Schools Program state bull’s-eye tournament in Minot March 23-24.


Oakes students claimed top honors in the elementary (grades 4-6) and middle school (grades 7-8) divisions, while Hankinson received the top prize in the high school (grades 9-12) division.


The overall male winner was Hankinson archer Cheyne Meyer, while Medina student Gracie Gunderson claimed the top spot in the female division.


Winning teams and the top 10 individuals qualify for the national tournament, scheduled for May in Louisville, Ky. The Game and Fish Department and North Dakota Youth Archery Advisory Council contribute a total of $3,000 in travel assistance to the first place team in each division, and $1,000 to the overall male and female individual winners. In addition, a total of $20,000 in college scholarships was awarded by the NDYAAC to the top five overall scorers in both boys and girls divisions.

Qualifying for nationals in each division are:


High school boys – 1) Cheyne Meyer, Hankinson; 2) Ty Wixo, Wahpeton; 3) Conor Shall, Oakes; 4) Evan Mickelson, Mt. Pleasant; 5) Chase Bladow, Hankinson; 6) Michael McKenna, North Sargent; 7) Clayton Stone, Hankinson; 8) Koven Walford, New Rockford-Sheyenne; 9) Michael Heim, Oakes; 10) Ben Frankki, Lidgerwood.


High school girls – 1) Gracie Gunderson, Medina; 2) Alicia Biewer, Hankinson; 3) Kate Loewen, Hankinson; 4) Jaden Gilje, North Sargent; 5) Jaidyn Sander, Hankinson; 6) Josephine Nelson, North Sargent; 7) Sydni Berg, Edgeley; 8) Avery Trittin, Lidgerwood; 9) Ainsley Helgerson, Oakes; 10) Mary Goroski, Wahpeton.


Middle school boys – 1) Brady Sand, Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg; 2) Casey Everson, Barnes County North; 3) Joshua Wiebusch, Wahpeton; 4) Jack Thompson, Hope-Page; 5) Clancy Zimbelman, Oakes; 6) Dillon Deering, Oakes; 7) Justin Schlenker, Barnes County North; 8) Grady Henderson, Edgeley; 9) Avery McFarland, North Sargent; 10) Marcus Garza, Oakes.


Middle school girls – 1) Rylee Suhr, Griggs County; 2) Lily Wiek, Oakes; 3) Ariana Onchuck, Hankinson; 4) Mackenzie Motter, Hope-Page; 5) Jaycee Brown, Hankinson; 6) Tallin Schafer, Lidgerwood; 7) Paetyn Hamann, North Sargent; 8) Sadie Keller, Hankinson; 9) Trinity Brandenburg, Edgeley; 10) Madison Sitzmann, Edgeley.


Elementary boys – 1) Brady Haugen, Griggs County; 2) Braysen Sagert, Oakes; 3) Damian Carlson, Edgeley; 4) Colin Olson, North Sargent; 5) Tucker Schacher, Wilton; 6) Wayland Sabinash, Kensal; 7) Connor Boe, Oakes; 8) Bryson McKown, Wyndmere; 9) Zachary Quinn, Wilton; 10) Andrew Jean, Hankinson.


Elementary girls – 1) Madison Samuelson, Mt. Pleasant; 2) Shayle Zimbelman, Oakes; 3) Carrie Osier, North Sargent; 4) Taya Schelske, Medina; 5) Avery St. Germaine, Mt. Pleasant; 6) Merissa Sitzmann, Edgeley; 7) Danica Onchuck, Hankinson; 8) Kaiya O’Connor, New Rockford-Sheyenne; 9) Serenity Reynolds, Pingree-Buchanan; 10) Kiara Frederick, Wilton.


In addition, archers had the option of competing in a NASP 3-D Challenge, run simultaneously with the bull’s-eye tournament.


Overall male and female winners were Brady Sand, Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg, and Gracie Gunderson, Medina.


Andrew Hill of Oakes was the winner of a pronghorn hunt in Wyoming, with the winning score decided by a one arrow shoot-off from the top five overall archers.


Top performers in the 3-D high school boys were 1) Andrew Hill, Oakes; 2) Chase Bladow, Hankinson; 3) Conor Shall, Oakes; 4) Tavon Stadler, Griggs County; 5) Evan Mickelson, Mt. Pleasant.


3-D high school girls – 1) Gracie Gunderson, Medina; 2) Jaidyn Sander, Hankinson; 3) Josephine Nelson, North Sargent; 4) Kate Loewen, Hankinson; 5) Avery Trittin, Lidgerwood.


3-D middle school boys – 1) Brady Sand, Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg; 2) Joshua Wiebusch, Wahpeton; 3) Clancy Zimbelman, Oakes; 4) Jack Thompson, Hope-Page; 5) Maxin Walock, Oakes.


3-D middle school girls – 1) Piper Suhr, Griggs County; 2) Rylee Suhr, Griggs County; 3) Kyria Dockter, New Rockford-Sheyenne; 4) Paetyn Hamann, North Sargent; 5) Aysia Frederick, Wilton.


3-D elementary boys – 1) Damian Carlson, Edgeley; 2) Braysen Sagert, Oakes; 3) Colin Olson, North Sargent; 4) Alex Weisenburger, New Rockford-Sheyenne; 5) Brady Haugen, Griggs County.


3-D elementary girls – 1) Madison Samuelson, Mt. Pleasant; 2) Shayle Zimbelman, Oakes; 3) Merissa Sitzmann, Edgeley; 4) Carrie Osier, North Sargent; 5) Skyler Foertsch, Hankinson.