Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Spring Mule Deer Survey Complete

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its annual spring mule deer survey in April, and results indicate western North Dakota’s mule deer population is similar to last year, and 45 percent above the long-term average.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND     Game and Fish

 

Biologists counted 2,540 mule deer in 245.8 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 10.3 deer per square mile, compared to 10.9 in 2017.

 

Big game management supervisor Bruce Stillings said mule deer in the badlands have recovered nicely following the winters of 2009-11, which led to record low fawn production and a population index low of 4.6 mule deer per square mile in 2012.

 

“The population recovery is due to no antlerless harvest for four years combined with milder winter conditions during 2012-2016, which led to good fawn production since 2013,” Stillings said. “However, the long-term health of the population will depend on maintaining high quality habitat. Rangeland conditions are in tough shape in the badlands due to drought conditions, and could have a negative impact on fawn production this summer.”

 

The 2018 survey results show that hunting opportunities, according to Stillings, can increase slightly in all badlands units except 4A, which has been slower to recover than the rest of the badlands units. “There are localized areas that have very high mule deer densities and have exceeded landowner tolerance levels,” Stillings said.

 

The spring mule deer survey is used to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands. It is conducted after the snow has melted and before the trees begin to leaf out, providing the best conditions for aerial observation of deer. Biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 study areas since the 1950s.

Remaining Spring Turkey Licenses Available March 20

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds hunters that 554 spring turkey licenses remain in six units. These remaining licenses are issued on a first-come, first-served basis beginning March 20.

 

Applications must be submitted online at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply.

 

The governor’s proclamation allows a maximum of two licenses. Hunters who did not apply in the first drawing are eligible to apply for remaining licenses.

 

Licenses remain in unit 06, Bowman County; unit 19, Grant and Sioux counties and portions of Morton County; unit 25, McHenry County and portions of Pierce and Ward Counties; unit 31, Mountrail County; unit 45, Stark County; and unit 51, Burke County and portions of Renville, Bottineau and Ward counties.

 

In addition, turkey hunters should note that the Game and Fish Department will mail the spring turkey licenses after hunters purchase a valid 2018-19 hunting license. All spring turkey hunters regardless of age are required to have a general game and habitat license in addition to their spring turkey license. Hunters age 16 and older must also have a small game license, or a combination license.

 

Spring turkey hunters are encouraged to purchase their other necessary licenses well in advance so their turkey tag arrives before the season opener on April 14.

Doug.Leier2017a

Spring Pheasant Count Down from Last Year

North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is down 14 percent from last year, according to the State Game and Fish Department’s 2017 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 6 to 10 percent in the primary regions holding pheasants.

“December and January provided a rough start to winter, with record snowfall and extremely cold temperatures making it less than ideal for all wildlife,” Gross said. “In addition, last year’s production was below average, so we entered this spring with a lower than average number of adult upland birds.”

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.

“Currently, we have many pheasant broods starting to show up around the countryside,” Gross said. “I am hopeful production on all our upland game birds this summer will be average.”

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.

Spring Turkey Drawing Held, Licenses Remain

The 2017 spring wild turkey lottery has been held and hopeful hunters can check individual results by accessing the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.

012413 webcast photo-spring turkey

A total of 891 licenses remain in 12 units. The governor’s proclamation allows a maximum of two licenses, and hunters who did not apply in the first drawing are also eligible.

Licenses remain in unit 03, Benson and Ramsey counties and portions of Pierce County; unit 06, Bowman County; unit 13, Dunn County; unit 19, Grant and Sioux counties and portions of Morton County; unit 25 McHenry County and portions of Pierce and Ward Counties; unit 30, portions of Morton County; unit 31, Mountrail County; unit 44, Slope County; unit 45, Stark County; unit 47, Eddy, Foster, Kidder, Sheridan, Stutsman and Wells counties; unit 51, Burke County and portions of Renville, Bottineau and Ward counties; and unit 99, Mercer and Oliver counties.

Licenses are issued on a first-come, first-served basis beginning March 15. Applicants can apply online, or print an application to mail at the Game and Fish website. In addition, applications can be requested by calling 701-328-6300. Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply.

The spring turkey season opens April 8 and continues through May 14.

Have You Seen? Spring Goose Season Video

 

Spring Light Goose Season

With the spring-like temperatures and melting ice, light geese have already started moving into the state. The spring light goose conservation season started on February 18 and runs through May 14. Learn more about the conservation season in this week’s North Dakota Outdoors webcast or here: https://youtu.be/V_V-loU1zQI

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Spring Light Goose Season

North Dakota’s spring light goose season opens Feb. 18 and continues throughMay 14.

Residents must have a valid current season 2016-17 (valid through March 31) or 2017-18 (required April 1) combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license. The 2017-18 license is available for purchase beginning March 15.

Nonresidents need a 2017 spring light goose season license. The cost is $50 and the license is good statewide. Nonresidents who hunt the spring season remain eligible to buy a fall season license. The spring season does not count against the 14-day fall waterfowl hunting season regulation.

In addition, nonresident youth under age 16 can purchase a license at the resident fee if their state has youth reciprocity licensing with North Dakota.

A federal duck stamp is not required for either residents or nonresidents.

Resident and nonresident licenses are available online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, by calling 800-406-6409, and at license vendors.

Availability of food and open water dictate when snow geese arrive in the state. Early migrants generally start showing up in the southeast part of the state in mid-to-late March, but huntable numbers usually aren’t around until the end of March or early April. Movements into and through the state will depend on available roosting areas and the extent of the snow line.

Hunters must obtain a new Harvest Information Program registration number before hunting. The HIP number can be obtained online or by calling 888-634-4798. The HIP number is good for the fall season as well, so spring hunters should save it to record on their fall license.

snow geese resting in and near sheet water

The Game and Fish Department will provide hunters with migration updates once geese have entered the state. Hunters can access the department’s website, or call701-328-3697, to receive generalized locations of bird sightings in North Dakota until the season ends or geese have left the state. Migration reports will be updated periodically during the week.

The spring season is only open to light geese – snows, blues, and Ross’s. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese. The season is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds.

Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. There is no daily bag limit or possession limit. Electronic and recorded calls, as well as shotguns capable of holding more than three shells, may be used to take light geese during this season.

There are no waterfowl rest areas designated for the spring season. Hunters should note that private land within waterfowl rest areas closed last fall may be posted closed to hunting.

Nontoxic shot is required for hunting all light geese statewide. Driving off established roads and trails is strongly discouraged during this hunt because of the likelihood of soft, muddy conditions, and winter wheat that is planted across the state. Sprouted winter wheat is considered an unharvested crop. Therefore, hunting or off-road travel in winter wheat is not legal without landowner permission.

To maintain good landowner relations, hunters are advised to seek permission before hunting on private lands or attempting any off-road travel during this season.

All regular hunting season regulations not addressed above apply to the spring season. For more information on regulations refer to the 2017 Spring Light Goose Hunting Regulations and the 2016 North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Guide.

Spring Turkey Season Set, Online Apps Available

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is offering 5,685 wild turkey licenses for the spring hunting season, 130 fewer than last year.

One of the 22 hunting units has slightly more spring licenses than in 2016, five have fewer and 15 remain the same. Unit 21 (Hettinger and Adams counties) is again closed in 2017 due to lack of turkeys in the unit.

Successful spring turkey applicants must purchase a 2017-18 hunting license, as last year’s 2016-17 licenses expire March 31. In addition to the spring turkey license, hunters must have a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate, and a general game and habitat license. Also, hunters ages 16 and older must possess a small game license, or combination license.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish

First-time spring turkey hunters ages 15 or younger are eligible to receive one spring license valid for the regular hunting season in a specific unit. To be eligible, the youth hunter must be 15 or younger on opening day of spring turkey season, and have never received a spring turkey license in North Dakota.

Spring turkey applicants can apply online at the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Applications can also be submitted by calling 800-406-6409.

Application forms will also be available by Feb. 1 at vendors and Game and Fish offices. The deadline for applying is Feb. 8. Online or phone applications must be logged before midnight that day.

Spring turkey licenses are available only to North Dakota residents. The spring turkey season opens April 8 and continues through May 14.

Spring Breeding Duck Numbers Tallied

 

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual spring breeding duck survey conducted in May showed an index of 3.4 million birds, down 5 percent from last year.

photo by Ed Bry, ND Game and Fish

“The spring migration was well ahead of normal as open fields and warm temperatures allowed early migrants to pass quickly through the state,” said migratory game bird supervisor Mike Szymanski.

Survey results indicated all species, except ruddy ducks (up 19 percent) and gadwall (up 4 percent), decreased from their 2015 estimates, while shovelers remained unchanged. Mallards were down 9 percent, pintails down 17 percent and canvasbacks down 18 percent. However all species, with the exception of pintails and canvasbacks, were above the long-term average (1948-2015).

Szymanski said the number of temporary and seasonal wetlands was substantially lower than last year, with the spring water index down 50 percent.

“However, conditions coming out of May into June were much wetter than what we observed during the week of the survey,” Szymanski added. “Frequent rains have since filled many wetlands that are beneficial for breeding ducks.”

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.

Szymanski said the July brood survey will provide a better idea of duck production and insight into expectations for this fall. “The total breeding duck index is still in the top 20 all time, so there is still a lot of potential for good production this year,” he added. “Hopefully improved wetland conditions since the May survey will carry through into increased wetland availability for duck broods.”

North Dakota Spring Mule Deer Survey Up 21%

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its annual spring mule deer survey in April, and results indicate western North Dakota’s mule deer population has increased 21 percent from last year.

Bruce Stillings, big game supervisor, said the increase is a result of higher adult doe survival in 2015, three consecutive years of good fawn production, and overwinter survival combined with milder winter weather conditions.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND     Game and Fish

“These factors, along with no harvest of antlerless mule deer during the past four deer hunting seasons, have resulted in mule deer numbers doubling since we experienced our low in 2012,” Stillings said.

Biologists counted 2,880 mule deer in 306.3 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 9.4 deer per square mile, which is up from 7.8 deer per square mile in 2015.

The spring mule deer survey is used to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands. It is conducted after the snow has melted and before the trees begin to leaf out, providing the best conditions for aerial observation of deer. Biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 study areas since the 1950s.