Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Tentative 2018 Season Opening Dates

Tentative 2018 Season Opening Dates

To help North Dakota hunters prepare for hunting seasons in 2018, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department annually provides its best estimate for opening dates for the coming year.

Dates become official when approved by governor’s proclamation. Tentative opening dates for 2018 include:

Spring Turkey April 14
Deer and Pronghorn Bow, Mountain Lion August 31
Dove September 1
Sharptail, Hun, Ruffed Grouse, Squirrel September 8
Youth Deer September 14
Youth Waterfowl September 15
Early Resident Waterfowl September 22
Regular Waterfowl, Youth Pheasant September 29
Pronghorn Gun October 5
Pheasant October 6
Fall Turkey October 13
Mink, Muskrat, Weasel Trapping October 27
Deer Gun November 9
Deer Muzzleloader November 30


Hunting from Duck Boats Requires Safety


Waterfowlers hunting from boats are encouraged to wear properly-fitted life jackets while on the water.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish

Hunting jackets with life jackets already built in are light and comfortable to wear. In addition, wearing a life jacket will not only keep the overboard hunter afloat, but also slow the loss of critical body heat caused by exposure to cold water.

Capsizing and falling overboard from small boats are the most common types of fatal boating accidents for hunters.

Eight people have drowned in state waters since 1998 while hunting from a boat, and none were wearing life jackets.

Wetland Conditions Good for Duck Hunting

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual fall wetland survey indicates good but variable wetland conditions for duck hunting throughout the state.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish

Migratory game bird biologist Andy Dinges said the northeast region has the highest number of wetlands holding water, while the south central and southeast have also seen improvement from last year’s fall wetland conditions. However, the northwest and north central regions of the state will have the fewest wetlands available for duck hunting opportunities since fall 2012.

“In general, wetland conditions are best in northeast, but other regions in the state have average to slightly below average fall wetland conditions,” Dinges said.

Dinges said this year’s moisture conditions began with fairly dry conditions in May, but were aided by steady precipitation throughout much of the state during mid-summer.

“Drying conditions in some regions should provide good loafing areas for waterfowl and cranes along wetlands, but can make hunting difficult in some cases if there is wide mud margin around wetlands,” Dinges added.

The quality of waterfowl hunting in North Dakota is largely determined by weather conditions and patterns. Dinges said strong reproduction for ducks in breeding areas both in and outside of North Dakota this year makes for good fall hunting potential.

“Hunters should always scout because of ever changing conditions and distribution of waterfowl,” Dinges said, “and should also be cautious driving off-trail to avoid soft spots, and while encountering areas of tall vegetation that could be a fire hazard.”

The fall wetland survey is conducted mid-September, just prior to the waterfowl hunting season, to provide an assessment of conditions duck hunters can expect.

Youth Waterfowl Weekend is Sept. 17-18

North Dakota’s two-day youth waterfowl season is Sept. 17-18. Legally licensed resident and nonresident youth waterfowl hunters age 15 and younger may hunt ducks, geese, coots and mergansers statewide.


The daily bag limit and species restrictions for the youth season are the same as for regular duck and goose seasons. Exception: the additional two blue-winged teal allowed during the first 16 days of the regular season are not allowed during the youth season.

Resident and qualifying nonresident youth waterfowl hunters must possess a general game and habitat license and a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate. Nonresidents from states that do not provide a reciprocal licensing agreement for North Dakota residents must purchase the entire nonresident waterfowl license package.

In addition, all youth hunters must be Harvest Information Program certified, and youth ages 12 and older need to have passed a certified hunter education course. Hunters age 15 and younger do not need a federal duck stamp.

Hunters who do not HIP certify when they buy a North Dakota license, can add it by visiting the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, or by calling 888-634-4798 and recording the HIP number on their printed license.

Shooting hours for the youth waterfowl season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. An adult of at least 18 years of age must accompany the resident youth hunter into the field, and a licensed adult is required to accompany a nonresident youth hunter. The two-day weekend hunt does not count against a nonresident adult hunter’s 14-day regular season waterfowl dates.

Duck Brood Numbers Up from Last Year

State Game and Fish Department biologists expect a fall duck flight from North Dakota that is similar to last year, based on observations from the annual mid-July waterfowl production survey.

photo by Harold Umber, ND Game and Fish

This year’s brood index came in at 3.89 broods per square mile, which is up 11 percent from last year. The statewide average since the survey began in the 1950s is 2.55 broods per square mile.

Observers also count water areas during the summer survey, and this year’s water index was 35 percent higher than last year. Because of abundant rains in many parts of North Dakota since late May, Game and Fish migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said summer wetland conditions are improved over spring conditions.

“It was fairly dry when we did our spring survey, but after that we started to get some good rains that helped improve late nesting and renesting efforts,” Szymanski said. “Wetlands were drying up quickly this spring, but then the rains came. The heavy, often localized rainfall helped keep brood habitat on the map into late summer in many areas.”

Game and Fish biologists conduct a separate survey in September to assess wetland conditions heading into the waterfowl hunting seasons.

Mallards, gadwall and blue-winged teal are the top three duck species that nest in North Dakota, and together they accounted for nearly 80 percent of the broods observed in the summer survey. Mallard brood numbers were up about 15 percent from last year, gadwalls were up about 28 percent, and blue-winged teal broods were down about 5 percent. Blue-winged teal are typically the most prevalent breeding duck in North Dakota.

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 late 1950s, and all routes used today have been in place since 1965.

Hunters Asked to Report Banded Migratory Birds

Hunters are reminded to check harvested migratory birds for bands this fall and report their findings.

7-95 photoby Craig Birhle, ND Game and Fish

Information from birds with a federal band should be reported online atwww.reportband.gov. In addition, the bird banding lab has a new, mobile friendly reporting site that will aid hunters to report bands via mobile devices. Those without access to the internet can report bands by calling 800-327-2263.

The band number, date and location of each recovery are needed. After the band information is processed, hunters can request a certificate of appreciation, and information about the bird will be returned in an email. Hunters can keep all bands they recover.

Information received from hunters is critical for management of migratory game birds.