Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

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.

2019 Deer Season Summarized

A total of 57,949 North Dakota deer hunters took approximately 37,250 deer during the 2019 deer gun hunting season, according to a post-season survey conducted by the state Game and Fish Department.

Game and Fish made available 65,500 deer gun licenses last year. Overall hunter success was 64 percent, with each hunter spending an average of 4.3 days in the field.

Hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer was 64 percent, and antlerless whitetail was 58 percent.

Mule deer buck success was 78 percent, and antlerless mule deer was 79 percent.

Hunters with any-antlered or any-antlerless licenses generally harvest white-tailed deer, as these licenses are predominantly in units with mostly whitetails. Buck hunters had a success rate of 68 percent, while doe hunters had a success rate of 65 percent.

Game and Fish issued 11,981 gratis licenses in 2019, and 9,767 hunters harvested 5,416 deer, for a success rate of 56 percent.

A total of 1,206 muzzleloader licenses were issued in 2019, and 1,040 hunters harvested 426 white-tailed deer (222 antlered, 204 antlerless). Hunter success was 41 percent.

A total of 27,582 archery licenses (24,902 resident, 2,680 nonresident) were issued in 2019. In total, 21,960 bow hunters harvested 8,978 deer (7,988 whitetails, 990 mule deer), for a success rate of 41 percent.

The department is in the process of determining recommendations for licenses in 2020. In addition to harvest rates and winter aerial surveys, Game and Fish staff monitor other population indices to determine license numbers, including depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff.

Game and Fish Recognizes Employee Efforts

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Director Terry Steinwand recently honored a number of employees with performance-based awards. Steinwand presented the following employees with special recognition awards at the department’s annual staff meeting in December.

 

Renae Schultz, private land biologist, Jamestown, was recognized for her attitude, persistence and efforts in coordinating a Private Lands Open to Sportsmen tract along the James River.

 

Mike Anderson, video project supervisor, Bismarck, was recognized for his planning, shooting, editing, script writing and voicing the North Dakota Outdoors weekly broadcast, in addition to hosting and editing the Game and Fish Department’s weekly online webcast.

 

Justin Mattson, administrative staff officer, Bismarck, was recognized for his work ethic, reliability and willingness to take on extra responsibilities in the administrative services division.

 

Bill Haase, wildlife resource management supervisor, Bismarck, was recognized for his work on several projects, including public shooting ranges, cover crops and GPS mapping for weed spraying.

 

Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird management supervisor, Bismarck, was recognized for his vision and coordination in combining the three separate small game, waterfowl and furbearer/trapping guides into one combined hunting and trapping guide.

 

Steve Dyke, conservation section leader, and Sandra Johnson and Elisha Mueller, conservation biologists, Bismarck, were recognized for their efforts in developing a new standard for wind project planning and siting in North Dakota.

 

In addition to special recognition recipients, Keenan Snyder, district game warden, Williston, was named North Dakota’s Boating Officer of the Year. His district has approximately 150 miles of shoreline bordering Lake Sakakawea and portions of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Chief game warden Robert Timian said warden Snyder has been tasked with water patrols relating to monitoring environmental issues associated with oil activities in, on and around these three water bodies, and has met these challenges with enthusiasm, which reflects highly on the department and the community he serves.

Free Ice Fishing Weekend

North Dakota’s free ice fishing weekend is Dec. 28-29.

 

Resident anglers may fish that weekend without a license. All other ice fishing regulations apply.

 

Those interested in darkhouse spearfishing that weekend must register with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department prior to participating. Registration is available by visiting the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. Legal fish are northern pike and nongame species.

Mountain Lion Late Season Closes in Zone 1, Conditional Season to Open

Mountain lion hunting during the late season in Zone 1 is closed immediately. The zone’s late-season harvest limit of either seven total cats or three females was reached after the seventh cat was taken.

A conditional season in Zone 1 will open Dec. 21 for hunters to pursue the additional two mountain lions that were not taken during the early season. The Zone 1 early season harvest limit was eight cats, and only six were taken.

The conditional season will close March 31, 2020 or immediately once the second cat is taken. Early season regulations apply, which means hunters are not allowed to use dogs. In addition, hunters who harvested a lion during the early or late season are not eligible to participate.

Zone 1 includes land south of ND Highway 1804 from the Montana border to the point where ND Highway 1804 lies directly across Lake Sakakawea from ND Highway 8, crossing Lake Sakakawea then south along ND Highway 8 to ND Highway 200, then west on ND Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 85, then south on U.S. Highway 85 to the South Dakota border.

The mountain lion season in Zone 2, which is the rest of the state outside Zone 1, has no harvest limit and is open through March 31, 2020.

Fish House Regulations

Winter anglers are reminded that any fish house left unoccupied on North Dakota waters must be made out of materials that will allow it to float.

 

Other fish house regulations include:

  • Fish houses do not require a license.
  • Occupied structures do not require identification. However, any unoccupied fish house must have an equipment registration number issued by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, or the owner’s name, and either address or telephone number, displayed on its outside in readily distinguishable characters at least three inches high.
  • Fish houses may not be placed closer than 50 feet in any direction to another house without consent of the occupant of the other fish house.
  • All unoccupied fish houses must be removed from all waters after midnight, March 15.

Anglers should refer to the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide for other winter fishing regulations.

 

Salmon Spawn Completed

Fisheries crews have completed their annual salmon spawning operation on the Missouri River System, after collecting more than 1.6 million eggs.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System supervisor Dave Fryda said crews easily collected enough eggs to stock the 400,000 smolts planned for Lake Sakakawea in 2020.

Unlike past years, Fryda said the majority of eggs were collected from the Garrison Dam Tailrace and the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery salmon stream instead of from Lake Sakakawea. Average size of female salmon was 6.5 pounds, which is similar to the last few years.

“The high releases through Garrison Dam this summer, which continued through the fall, resulted in extensive entrainment of salmon from Lake Sakakawea,” Fryda said. “Salmon were scarce in Lake Sakakawea during the spawning season but abundant below the dam. In fact, 94% of all eggs collected in 2019 were from below the dam.”

Annual tagging of young salmon prior to stocking allows positive confirmation that the abundant salmon found below Garrison Dam were from fish stocked in Lake Sakakawea, Fryda said.

Chinook salmon begin their spawning run in October. Since salmon cannot naturally reproduce in North Dakota, Game and Fish Department and Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery personnel collect eggs and transport them to the hatchery.

Once the eggs hatch, young salmon spend several months in the hatchery before being stocked in Lake Sakakawea.

Late Season Hunting Opportunities End Soon

North Dakota waterfowl hunters are reminded the statewide duck and white-fronted goose seasons close Dec. 1. However, duck hunting in the high plains unit reopens Dec. 7 and continues through Dec. 29.

 

In addition, the season for Canada geese closes Dec. 16 in the eastern zone, Dec. 21 in the western zone and Dec. 27 in the Missouri River zone. Light goose hunting closes statewide Dec. 29.

 

Archery deer, fall turkey, sharp-tailed and ruffed grouse, partridge, pheasant and tree squirrel hunting seasons continue through Jan. 5, 2020.

​Mountain Lion Zone 1 Early Season Ends, Late Season Opens

North Dakota’s early mountain lion season in Zone 1 closed Sunday, Nov. 24, and the late season, when hunters can pursue lions with dogs, is now open.

During the early season, hunters took six cats from a harvest limit of eight. Under the season structure, a conditional season could open five days after the late season closes, for hunters to pursue the additional two mountain lions that were not taken.

The late season in Zone 1 opened Monday, Nov. 25 and is scheduled to run through March 31, 2020, or until the harvest limit is reached. The late season harvest limit is seven total lions or three female lions, whichever comes first.

Hunters are advised to check the status of the late season by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov .

Zone 1 includes land in western North Dakota south of ND Highway 1804 from the Montana border to the point where ND Highway 1804 lies directly across Lake Sakakawea from ND Highway 8, crossing Lake Sakakawea, then south along ND Highway 8 to ND Highway 200, then west on ND Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 85, then south on U.S. Highway 85 to the South Dakota border.

The mountain lion season in Zone 2, which is the rest of the state outside Zone 1, has no harvest limit and is open through March 31, 2020.

The mountain lion season is open only to North Dakota residents. Hunters need a furbearer or combination license to participate.