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.

Some Refuges Open to Late-Season Upland Game

Hunters are reminded that several national wildlife refuges in North Dakota are open to late-season upland game bird hunting the day after the deer gun season closes.

 

Arrowwood, Audubon, Des Lacs, J. Clark Salyer, Lake Alice, Lake Zahl, Long Lake, Lostwood, Tewaukon (pheasants only), and Upper Souris NWRs open Nov. 26.

 

However, portions of each refuge are closed to hunting. Hunters should contact refuge headquarters for information on closed areas and other restrictions: Arrowwood 701-285-3341; Audubon 701-442-5474; Des Lacs 701-385-4046; J. Clark Salyer 701-768-2548; Lake Alice 701-662-8611; Lake Zahl 701-965-6488; Long Lake 701-387-4397; Lostwood 701-848-2722; Tewaukon 701-724-3598; and Upper Souris 701-468-5467; or visit www.fws.gov and click on “National Wildlife Refuges” for details on each individual refuge.

 

National wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunters are reminded that use of nontoxic shot is required on all USFWS lands. State regulations found in the North Dakota 2018-19 Hunting and Trapping Guide apply. Seasons for pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and ruffed grouse close statewide on Jan. 6, 2019.

2017 Upland Game Seasons Summarized

Drought conditions, and not as many hunters in the field last fall meant fewer pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge in the bag, according to statistics compiled by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

 

Last year, more than 58,300 pheasant hunters (down 24 percent) harvested 309,400 roosters (down 38 percent), compared to 76,600 hunters and 501,100 roosters in 2016.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of pheasants taken by resident hunters in 2017 were McLean, 6.7; Burleigh, 6.6; Williams, 5.9; Sargent, 5.6; and Divide, 5.5.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Hettinger, 18.2 percent; Bowman, 10.2; Divide, 7.1; Emmons, 5.6; and Dickey, 5.5.

 

In 2017, 13,600 grouse hunters (down 28 percent) harvested 46,900 sharp-tailed grouse (down 28 percent). In 2016, nearly 18,900 hunters took 65,500 sharptails.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of sharptails taken by resident hunters in 2017 were Slope, 8.6; Walsh, 6.6; Mountrail, 6.4; Kidder, 6.3; and Benson, 4.8.

 

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

 

Last year, nearly 13,800 hunters (down 18 percent) harvested 32,800 Hungarian partridge (down 40 percent). In 2016, 16,900 hunters harvested 54,200 Huns.

 

Counties with the highest percentage of Huns taken by resident hunters in 2017 were Mountrail, 10.8; Ward, 8.3; Stark, 5.8; Williams, 5.4; and Adams, 4.4.

 

Top counties for nonresident hunters were Divide, 15; McLean, 12.3; Golden Valley, 7.3; Stutsman, 7.3; and Grant, 6.3.

Late-Season Hunting Opportunities End Soon

North Dakota waterfowl hunters are reminded the statewide duck and white-fronted goose seasons close Dec. 3. However, duck hunting in the high plains unit reopens Dec. 9 and continues through Dec. 31.

pheasant hunter

In addition, the season for Canada geese closes Dec. 21, except for the Missouri River Zone, which closes Dec. 29. Light goose hunting closes statewide Dec. 31.

Archery deer, fall turkey, sharp-tailed and ruffed grouse, partridge, pheasant and tree squirrel hunting seasons continue through Jan. 7, 2018.

 

Some Refuges Open to Late-Season Upland Game

Hunters are reminded that several North Dakota national wildlife refuges open to late-season upland game bird hunting the day after the deer gun season closes.

Arrowwood, Audubon, Des Lacs, J. Clark Salyer, Lake Alice, Lake Zahl, Long Lake, Lostwood, Tewaukon (pheasants only), and Upper Souris NWRs open Nov. 21.

However, portions of each refuge are closed to hunting. Hunters should contact refuge headquarters for information on closed areas and other restrictions: Arrowwood 701-285-3341; Audubon 701-442-5474; Des Lacs 701-385-4046; J. Clark Salyer 701-768-2548; Lake Alice 701-662-8611; Lake Zahl 701-965-6488; Long Lake 701-387-4397; Lostwood 701-848-2722; Tewaukon 701-724-3598; and Upper Souris 701-468-5467; or visit www.fws.gov and click on “National Wildlife Refuges” for details on each individual refuge.

National wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunters are reminded that use of nontoxic shot is required on all USFWS lands. State regulations found in the North Dakota 2016-17 Small Game Guide apply. Seasons for pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and ruffed grouse close statewide on Jan. 8, 2017.

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.

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.