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N.D. waterfowl outlook looks good

Forum staff reports Hunters this year can expect a somewhat tougher waterfowl season compared to recent years, according to Mike Johnson, migratory game bird management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The fall flight of ...

Forum staff reports

Hunters this year can expect a somewhat tougher waterfowl season compared to recent years, according to Mike Johnson, migratory game bird management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

The fall flight of ducks from North Dakota is expected to be down 40 percent from last year, although Johnson said the flight will still be well above average. Additionally, weather conditions in the arctic this spring were not good for goose production so hunters will see fewer young snow geese and small Canada geese.

Opening day for North Dakota residents is Sept. 25 for ducks, coots, mergansers and geese. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Oct. 2.

Prospects for the continental fall duck flight are good, Johnson mentioned, and North Dakota's contribution to the fall flight, while down from 2003, should be above average and similar to the fall flights of 1995-96.

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"We had large numbers of breeding ducks this spring, and duck production in North Dakota was again high at 77 percent above the 1955-2003 average," Johnson said.

Almost one-third of the duck production is blue-winged teal, which are early migrants, Johnson noted.

"Many blue-winged teal are migrating through the state right now, and while there are always some around at the start of the season, approximately 80-90 percent migrate out of the state by Oct. 1," he said.

Duck production in prairie Canada appears to be a mixed bag this year, with some areas having improved water while other areas remained dry.

"Additionally, cool wet conditions hampered brood survival in some areas," Johnson added. "Despite these somewhat varied reports, the number of ducks that migrate through North Dakota should be pretty good."

Snow goose and Canada goose populations remain high and large numbers will migrate through the state this fall, Johnson noted. However, small Canada geese in the Tall Grass Prairie population, and Mid-Continent snow geese both had a below average year on their arctic nesting grounds.

North Dakota's three-day sage grouse season opens Monday, Sept. 27 and runs through Wednesday, Sept. 29.

This year, the sage grouse season is moved to a later date in September to reduce the amount of hunting pressure on adult females. Harvest records indicate the later the season the less hunting mortality occurs on adult females.

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Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily and possession limit is one, and the area open to hunting is south of Interstate 94 and west of U.S. Highway 85 in southwestern North Dakota.

Anyone seeing the rare whooping cranes as they head through North Dakota is asked to report sightings so the birds can be tracked, according to Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Whooping crane sightings should be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge office at 701-387-4397, Crosby Wetland Management District office at 701-965-6488, the state game and fish department's main office in Bismarck at 701-328-6300, or to local game wardens around the state.

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