Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Hunters Use Caution on Roadways

With wet conditions abating enough to allow many North Dakota producers to start or continue row crop harvest, the State Game and Fish Department reminds hunters to avoid parking along roadways or field approaches where vehicles could block travel by farm machinery.

“We’ve received numerous calls from farmers who are unable to get machinery around vehicles parked along rural roadways,” said Jeb Williams, wildlife division chief for Game and Fish. “As fields continue to dry out, we’ll see more and more harvest activity, and we urge hunters to keep that in mind as they are choosing where to park when accessing hunting areas.”

Williams said traveling hunters should also watch for approaching farm machinery and pull well to the side of the road or find an approach when meeting combines, grain trucks or tractors pulling equipment. “The window for harvest is tight this year,” Williams added. “We urge hunters to keep that in mind until harvest activity winds down.”

Be Wary of Travel Conditions for Pheasant Opener

Current weather conditions are making travel difficult as pheasant hunting season kicks off this weekend.

With heavy snow in much of the state covering roads and fields that were already saturated, travel on section line trails, unimproved roads and in harvested grain fields where hunting might take place will be nearly impossible.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking hunters to be aware of on- and off-road conditions, and strongly discourages driving on soft, muddy roads, trails and section lines.

North Dakota’s pheasant season opens Saturday, Oct. 12 and continues through Jan. 5, 2020. The daily limit is three roosters with 12 in possession.

Youth Pheasant Weekend Oct. 5-6

North Dakota’s two-day youth pheasant season is Oct. 5-6. Legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger may hunt roosters statewide.

Resident youth hunters, regardless of age, must possess a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and general game and habitat license. Nonresident youth hunters from states that provide a reciprocal licensing agreement for North Dakota residents qualify for North Dakota resident licenses. Otherwise, nonresident youth hunters must purchase a nonresident small game license.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Youth ages 12 and older need to have passed a certified hunter education course. The daily bag limit and all other regulations for the regular pheasant season apply.

An adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter in the field. The adult may not carry a firearm.

See the North Dakota 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Guide for additional information.

Hunters Asked to Submit Wing Envelopes

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is once again asking upland game hunters to help biologists monitor hatching dates and reproductive rates by submitting wings and appropriate feathers/legs in wing envelopes this fall.

Harvested birds provide a good random sample that biologists use to assess the ratio of juveniles to adults, and estimate the average ages of harvested juveniles.

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), 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.

Pheasant, Sharptail and Partridge Numbers Up

North Dakota’s roadside surveys conducted in late July and August indicate total pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse and gray partridge numbers are up from last year.

State Game and Fish Department upland game biologist RJ Gross said the survey shows total pheasants observed per 100 miles are up 10% from last year. In addition, broods per 100 miles are up 17%, while the average brood size is down 5%. The final summary is based on 275 survey runs made along 101 brood routes across North Dakota.

“This was the first year in a while that we’ve had good residual cover to start the year, and good weather for nesting and brood-rearing,” Gross said. “In the southwest portion of the state, which is our primary pheasant district and most popular hunting area, local populations are slowly improving.”

Gross said hunters should not overlook pheasant opportunities in northwest and southeast North Dakota. “Two good years of chick production should translate to more birds for hunters to pursue,” he said.

Statistics from the northwest indicate pheasants are up 49% from last year, with broods up 75%. Observers recorded five broods and 39 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was six.

Results from the southeast show birds are up 32% from last year, and the number of broods up 27%. Observers counted six broods and 51 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was six.

Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate total pheasants were down 7% and broods observed up 2% from 2018. For every 100 survey miles, observers counted an average of six broods and 41 pheasants. The average brood size was five chicks.

The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed two broods and 15 pheasants per 100 miles. Average brood size was four.

Sharptails observed per 100 miles are up 113% statewide from 2018, and partridge are up 58%.

Upland game management supervisor Jesse Kolar said sharptail numbers are still roughly 50% below 2012-15. “However, we observed slight increases in all metrics this year during our surveys, especially in counties east of the Missouri River where we observed the highest numbers of grouse per 100 miles since 2013,” he said.

Brood survey results show statewide increases in number of grouse and broods observed per 100 miles, and in average brood size. Observers recorded 1.7 sharptail broods and 13.6 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was five.

Although partridge numbers have shown a slight increase, Gross said the majority of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. Partridge densities in general, he said, are too low to target. Observers recorded 0.5 partridge broods and 6.8 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 10.

The 2019 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 12 and continues through Jan. 5, 2020. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 5-6.

The 2019 grouse and partridge seasons open Sept. 14 and continue through Jan. 5, 2020.

Small Game, Waterfowl and Furbearer Regulations Set

North Dakota’s 2019 small game, waterfowl and furbearer regulations are set and most season structures are similar to last year.

Noteworthy items include:

  • Opening day for ducks, geese, coots and mergansers for North Dakota residents is Sept. 21. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Sept. 28.
  • The daily limit on pintails is reduced from two to one.
  • River otter season limit is increased from 15 to 20.
  • The fisher trapping season is expanded almost statewide, except for Bottineau and Rolette counties, which remain closed.
  • The tree squirrel season is extended to Feb. 28.
  • Veterans and members of the Armed Forces (including National Guard and Reserves) on active duty, who possess a resident hunting license, may hunt waterfowl Sept. 14-15.
  • The prairie chicken and sage grouse seasons will remain closed due to low populations.
  • In accordance with state law, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or Private Land Open To Sportsmen areas from Oct. 12-18.

Hunters and trappers can find the North Dakota 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Guide – which includes upland game, migratory game bird and furbearer/trapping regulations and other information – by visiting the state Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Printed guides will be available at vendor locations in mid-August.

For a complete listing of opening and closing dates, and daily and possession limits, refer to the table on pages 4-5 of the guide.

2018 Upland Game Seasons Summarized

North Dakota’s 2018 pheasant and sharp-tailed grouse harvests were similar to 2017, while the number of Hungarian partridge taken last year was down from the year before, according to statistics compiled by the state Game and Fish Department.

 

Upland game management supervisor Jesse Kolar said the decline in partridge during the summer 2018 brood survey was not as drastic, so he suspects the lower partridge harvest was related to fewer pheasant hunters and fewer trips per hunter.

 

“Partridge are most commonly harvested incidentally, while hunters are pursuing pheasant or grouse, so the rate of harvest does not always mirror numbers on the ground,” Kolar said.

 

More than 58,200 pheasant hunters harvested 327,000 roosters (up 6 percent) in 2018, compared to 58,300 hunters and 309,400 roosters in 2017.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of pheasants taken by resident hunters last year were Williams, 6.7; McLean, 6.5; Richland, 6; Morton, 5.6; and Divide, 5.2.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Hettinger, 13.6 percent; Bowman, 10.4; Divide, 7.6; Dickey, 5.9; and Emmons, 4.8.

 

In 2018, nearly 13,100 grouse hunters (down 4 percent) harvested 45,600 sharp-tailed grouse (down 3 percent). In 2017, 13,600 hunters took 46,900 sharptails.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of sharptails taken by resident hunters in 2018 were Slope, 6.5; Walsh, 5.5; Mountrail, 5.4; Kidder, 5.3; and Benson, 4.6.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Bowman, 11.3; Hettinger, 7.4; Divide, 7; Mountrail, 6.8; and Ward, 6.4.

 

Last year, 11,200 hunters (down 19 percent) harvested 23,000 Hungarian partridge (down 30 percent). In 2017, nearly 13,800 hunters harvested 32,800 Huns.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of Huns taken by resident hunters in 2018 were Williams, 15.1; Mountrail, 12.1; Logan, 7.3; Ward, 6.5; and Burke, 5.9.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Divide, 10.3; McLean, 9.9; Mountrail, 9.3; Hettinger, 8.9; and Dunn, 8.2.

Youth Pheasant Weekend Sept. 29-30

North Dakota’s two-day youth pheasant season is Sept. 29-30. Legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger may hunt roosters statewide.

Resident youth hunters, regardless of age, must possess a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and general game and habitat license. Nonresident youth hunters from states that provide a reciprocal licensing agreement for North Dakota residents qualify for North Dakota resident licenses. Otherwise, nonresident youth hunters must purchase a nonresident small game license.

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Youth ages 12 and older need to have passed a certified hunter education course. The daily bag limit and all other regulations for the regular pheasant season apply.

An adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter in the field. The adult may not carry a firearm.

See the North Dakota 2018-19 Hunting and Trapping Guide for additional information.

Spring Pheasant Count Down from Last Year

North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is down 30 percent from the same time last year, according to the state Game and Fish Department’s 2018 spring crowing count survey.

R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was down statewide, with decreases ranging from 15 to 38 percent in the primary regions holding pheasants.

“We entered spring with a lower than average number of adult birds,” Gross said. “Last year’s production was far below average due to the statewide drought conditions.”

However, Gross said the past winter was good for bird survival, so hens should be in good physical shape for the nesting season.

“In addition, this spring’s weather has been good so far, as most of the state has received adequate rainfall,” he added. “If the trend continues, a good hatch should be expected, but it will take a few years of good reproduction to get the population back to where it was before the drought.”

While the spring number is an indicator, Gross said it does not predict what the fall population will look like. Brood surveys, which begin in late July and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.

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.

The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to previous years’ data, providing a trend summary.