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Doug Leier: Late-season hunting opportunities remain for pheasants, other upland game birds

Pheasant, grouse and partridge seasons are open through Jan. 1, 2023, so there’s still plenty of time to get out and enjoy what the late season offers.

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If you’ve never hunted roosters near the end of the season, understand that these birds have been hunted for several weeks.
Mike Anderson/North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

WEST FARGO – The first weeks of pheasant hunting in North Dakota were about as good as it gets weatherwise. Farmers were putting crops in the bins, and hunters were putting birds in the bag. Mix in some football and all the fields were buzzing. Sure, there were good reports and not so good. But a slow day of hunting beats the best day at work for most.

For some hunters, cafes, gas stations and watering holes, the activity is a welcome sight. Others would rather have a little less congestion. The nice weather also gave fall anglers an added option. Driving by the river late in October and seeing shore anglers brought a smile to my face. I could sense the appreciation a lone angler feels enjoying a little less “noise.”

While it may not be the best fishing, the recipe of peace and quiet fills a limit in a different way.

Late season pheasant hunters may also agree.

Some hunters who prefer less crowded fields may, in fact, not hunt roosters all that much until the close of deer season. Others view the end of deer season as a reason to get back out after pheasants, and still others keep going from beginning to end.

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December pheasants

If you’ve never hunted roosters near the end of the season, understand that these birds have been hunted for several weeks, and they’ll probably be a little jumpy compared to opening weekend. Because of that, some veteran hunters who prefer a 20-gauge earlier in the season commonly switch to a 12-gauge and use shells with larger pellets because of the perception that late-season shot ranges are longer than those typically encountered in October.

Whether shot ranges change all that much from early to later in the season is a good topic for coffee shop conversation. What is true, however, is that larger shot sizes are better for taking pheasants cleanly during any part of the season.

Across the state, many national wildlife refuges are now open and available for limited upland game hunting, including pheasants, grouse and partridge. They opened after deer season and after most migratory waterfowl have left the state.

Each refuge has specific regulations, including open and closed areas. Don’t let the specific regulations deter you. Refuge employees are more than happy to explain regulations and might even offer a tip or two along the way.

To learn more about late season NWR hunting opportunities, contact your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office, or visit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.

And like a warm October hunt, you’d be well served to bring a cooler along, but this time of year, you’ll want to keep the birds from freezing instead of cooling them down. If you field dress your birds, be sure to leave proper identification as required by law.

Pheasant, grouse and partridge seasons are open through Jan. 1, 2023, so there’s still plenty of time to get out and enjoy what the late season offers.

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.
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