•2017 Waterfowl Regulations Set
North Dakota’s 2017 waterfowl season is set, with the season framework similar to last year.
Noteworthy changes include the daily limit on pintails is reduced from two to one, and the west boundary of the Missouri River Canada Goose Zone, north of N.D. Highway 200, is extended to N.D. Highway 8.
Opening day for North Dakota residents is Sept. 23 for ducks, geese, coots and mergansers. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Sept. 30. The season for swans opens Sept. 30 for both residents and nonresidents.
Hunters may take six ducks per day with the following restrictions: five mallards of which two may be hens, three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two canvasbacks and one pintail. Similar to last year, hunters can take an additional two blue-winged teal from Sept. 23 through Oct. 8. The daily limit of five mergansers may include no more than two hooded mergansers. For ducks and mergansers, the possession limit is three times the daily limit.
The hunting season for Canada geese in the Missouri River zone will close Dec. 29, while the remainder of the state will close Dec. 21. The season for whitefronts closes Dec. 3, while the season on light geese is open through Dec. 31. Shooting hours for all geese are one-half hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. each day through Nov. 4. Beginning Nov. 5, shooting hours are extended until 2 p.m. each day.
Extended shooting hours for all geese are permitted from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset on Saturdays and Wednesdays through Nov. 22, and on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays from Nov. 23 through the end of each season.
The bag limit for Canada geese during the regular season is eight daily and 24 in possession, except in the Missouri River zone where the limit is five daily and 15 in possession.
The daily limit on whitefronts is three with nine in possession, and light goose is 50 daily, with no possession limit.
The early Canada goose season will open Aug. 15 and continue through Sept. 15, except in the Missouri River Zone where the season ends Sept. 7. The early Canada goose season has a limit of 15 daily and 45 in possession.
The special youth waterfowl hunting season is Sept. 16-17. Legally licensed residents and nonresidents 15 years of age or younger can hunt ducks, coots, mergansers and geese statewide. Youth hunters must be HIP registered, have a general game and habitat license and a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate. A licensed adult of at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter into the field.
Nonresidents have the option of buying either a statewide waterfowl license or one with zone restrictions. Nonresidents who designate zones 1 or 2 may hunt that zone for only one seven-day period during the season. Nonresident hunters who choose to hunt in zone 1 or 2 and wish to use the full 14 consecutive days allowed, must use the other seven days in zone 3. Hunters in zone 3 can hunt that zone the entire 14 days.
In accordance with state law, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or conservation PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) areas from Oct. 7-13.
Hunters who do not HIP certify when they buy a North Dakota license, can add it later through the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, or by calling 888-634-4798 and recording the HIP number on their printed license. Those who registered to hunt North Dakota’s spring light goose season or early Canada goose season do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required in each state only once per year.
Hunters should refer to the 2017 North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Guide for further details on the waterfowl season. Paper copies will be at license vendors in early September.
•Duck Brood Numbers Down Slightly from Last Year
State Game and Fish Department biologists expect a fall duck flight from North Dakota that is down 8 percent from last year, based on observations from the annual mid-July waterfowl production survey.
This year’s brood index came in at 3.68 broods per square mile, down 5 percent from last year. The statewide average since the survey began in 1955 is 2.59 broods per square mile. Overall brood size was up 8 percent from last year.
Migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said production was better in the northern tier of the state, with northernmost routes experiencing increased counts over last year. “Moving south and east, fewer broods were observed than in 2016,” he said.
Observers also count water areas during the summer survey, and this year’s water index was 38 percent lower than last year. Due to drought conditions and sparse precipitation since snowmelt, Szymanski said summer wetland conditions are declining.
“It was already starting to dry up when we did our spring survey, and the pattern continued,” Szymanski added. “It definitely affected how breeding pairs settled in the state. Temporary and seasonal wetlands were the first to be hit. Luckily, most medium-sized and larger wetlands were only starting to show stress at the time of the survey.”
Game and Fish biologists will 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 75 percent of the broods observed in the summer survey. Mallard brood numbers were down about 13 percent from last year, gadwalls were down about 4 percent, and blue-winged teal broods were unchanged. Blue-winged teal are typically the most prevalent breeding duck in North Dakota.
In addition, pintail brood numbers were down 65 percent. However, shovelers were up 44 percent.
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 mid-1950s, and all routes used today have been in place since 1965.