Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Grouse and Partridge Seasons Open Sept. 10

North Dakota’s grouse and partridge hunting seasons open Sept. 10, and hunters can expect somewhat lower bird numbers compared to 2015.

photo by Ed Bry, ND Game and Fish

Aaron Robinson, upland game management supervisor for the State Game and Fish Department, said last year’s harvest results suggest a good population heading into the 2015 fall hunting season.

“Hunters were able to find birds last year, and we are hopeful that with a little hard work this trend will continue for the 2016 fall hunting season,” Robinson said.

Harvest results for the 2015 season show more than 23,000 sharp-tailed grouse hunters (up 10 percent from 2014) harvested 83,000 birds (up 15 percent), while more than 18,000 Hungarian partridge hunters (up 13 percent) bagged 59,000 Huns (up 60 percent).

Ruffed grouse are primarily found in the native aspen woodlands of Rolette, Bottineau, Pembina, Walsh, Cavalier and portions of McHenry counties. While the ruffed grouse population remains low, Robinson said the birds are in an upward cycle and with good production an improved population is expected.

Shooting hours for the upcoming season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Sharptails, ruffed grouse and Huns each have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of 12.

Hunters, regardless of age, must have a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and general game and habitat license. In addition, hunters age 16 and older need a small game license.

For further season information and regulations, hunters should consult the North Dakota 2016-17 Small Game Hunting Guide.

Hunters Asked to Submit Wing Envelopes

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is once again asking grouse hunters for help with future bird management by simply collecting some feathers from harvested birds and sending in wing envelopes this fall.

ruffed grouse tail

Wing data allows biologists to monitor production, reconcile bird counts and get a better understanding of the harvest ratio of males to females, and juveniles to adults.

Instructions for submitting wing data are printed on the envelope.

Hunters interested in receiving wing envelopes should visit the Game and Fish website (gf.nd.gov) to order a supply of wing envelopes, or contact the department’s main office in Bismarck by phone (701-328-6300) or email (ndgf@nd.gov).

In addition, Game and Fish district offices have a supply of wing envelopes for distribution. District offices are located at Devils Lake, Jamestown, Riverdale, Dickinson, Williston and Lonetree Wildlife Management Area near Harvey.

Spring Upland Game Index Numbers

North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is up slightly from last year, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down slightly, according to recent surveys conducted by State Game and Fish Department biologists.

Aaron Robinson, upland game management supervisor, said the number of pheasant roosters heard on the spring crowing count survey was up just about 2 percent statewide. Numbers in the southeast were down from last year, Robinson said, while “the other regions from west to central were up slightly, but not enough to say there’s a big increase from last year.”

Sharp-tailed grouse counts on spring dancing grounds or leks were down about 6 percent statewide from last year. “We were kind of expecting that,” Robinson added. “We had some dry weather last year and production wasn’t as good.”

While the spring counts provide a good indicator of the number of breeding birds in the two populations, Robinson says it’s primarily early summer weather that influences hunting success in the fall. “You have to have the right conditions to produce a good hatch,” he said. “You don’t want really wet, cold years, and you don’t want dry years. Dry years don’t produce those insects that chicks need to survive those first 10 days.”

Game and Fish biologists will start their summer upland game brood counts in mid-July, and Robinson said that will lead to more precise fall population predictions. “That’s when we really start to understand what our production was for the year.”

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

Biologists count male sharptails on their dancing grounds in 25 monitoring blocks throughout the state, and numbers within each block are compared from year to year.

Have You Read? February North Dakota Outdoors Magazine

The February  issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine is available FREE online right now. One of the features is  Managing Mountain Lions: A Look at the Past and Future by Ron Wilson. North Dakota held it first mountain lion hunting season in 2005, and it’s ran uninterrupted since. The Game and Fish Department in conjunction with researchers from South Dakota State University, launched the first part of a two phase research project in 2011.


There’s some great information breaking down the deer lottery, and the Enforcement Division’s 2015 year in review.


Greg Freeman explains how All-Electronic Licensing Starts April 1Elimination of paper  licenses sold at vendors has been in the works since 2013, when the state legislature passed a law requiring each county auditor to implement a computerized online licensing system by March of last year, and each agent or vendor appointed by a  county auditor by March, 1, 2016.


Check these stories and more for free in the full February issue available right here or here http://gf.nd.gov/publications

District Game Warden Exam Set For March 18

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has scheduled an examination to select candidates for the position of district game warden. The test is at 10 a.m., March 18, at the department’s main office in Bismarck.

010113Game warden checking  hunters

Applicants must register to take the exam no later than March 14 by submitting an online application through the North Dakota State Job Openings website.

Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have a bachelor’s degree at time of hire (tentative hire date is June 1), have a valid driver’s license and a current North Dakota peace officer license, or be eligible to be licensed. Candidates must have excellent interpersonal skills in communications and writing, and must not have a record of any felony convictions.

District game wardens enforce game and fish laws and related regulations in an assigned district and other locations as determined by the department. Wardens normally work alone under varied conditions, at all hours of the day, night and weekends. In addition to law enforcement duties, wardens assist in the areas of public relations, education programs, and hunter and boat safety education.

Salary through training for a district game warden is $3,600 per month. Upon successful completion of training, the monthly salary ranges are $4,136 – $6,894. Wardens also receive the state benefits package, including travel allowance. Uniforms and other equipment are provided.

2015 sharp-tailed grouse numbers are up

Statistics from the 2015 spring sharp-tailed grouse census indicate a 22 percent increase in the number of male grouse counted compared to last year.



Statewide, 4,346 sharptails were observed on spring dancing grounds this year compared to 3,551 in 2014. Male grouse recorded per square mile increased from 3.4 to 4.2. More than 1,000 square miles were covered.

Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson, said the outlook for the 2015 hunting season is still premature as lek counts are a metric of population trends and not a reliable predictor of hunter success.

“Preliminary observations indicate good residual cover for a favorable hatch, but this is heavily influenced by timing, duration, location of severe precipitation and low temperatures,” Robinson said.

An indication of the fall season won’t be known until completion of brood surveys in late summer.

grouse and partridge numbers down

Data recently tallied from July and August roadside counts indicate sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge populations are down significantly from last year.

As of Aug. 28, brood results suggest sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down 51 percent statewide from last year, with the number of broods observed down 50 percent. The average brood size is about the same as in 2012, and the age ratio is up 19 percent.

The statewide Hungarian partridge population is down 34 percent from last year, and the number of broods observed is down 31 percent.

Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson, said even though spring survey numbers indicated a population comparable to last year, the telling factor is always late-summer counts.

“Fall hunting season success is directly correlated to the current year’s reproductive success – if there is a good hatch than logically there will be more birds on the landscape come fall hunting season,” Robinson said. “Spring census allows us to monitor the breeding population, which is used to track the base population trend over time.”

The season for sharp-tailed grouse, ruffed grouse and Hungarian partridge opensSept. 14. Hunters should refer to the North Dakota 2013-14 Small Game Hunting Guidefor further season information and regulations.