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Stage set for banner N.D. waterfowl season

North Dakota's waterfowl season for resident hunters begins Saturday9/26, and nonresidents can begin hunting in the state Oct. 3. Here's a closer look at the status of waterfowl going into the opener. Minnesota's general waterfowl season opens Oc...

Waterfowl
North Dakota Game and Fish Department photo

North Dakota's waterfowl season for resident hunters begins Saturday9/26, and nonresidents can begin hunting in the state Oct. 3.

Here's a closer look at the status of waterfowl going into the opener. Minnesota's general waterfowl season opens Oct. 3.

State outlook: Much improved from last year, thanks to recharged water conditions across the state. Mike Johnson, game management section leader for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, said the fall flight of ducks from the state is expected to be up about a third from last year and similar to 2004. The brood index from the Game and Fish Department's annual mid-July survey was down 2 percent from 2008 but was twice the long-term average. The water index observed during the survey was up 132 percent from last year and 63 percent above the long-term average. "We had large numbers of breeding ducks this spring, and duck production in North Dakota was again high at 87 percent above the 1955-2008 average," Johnson said.

North American outlook: Continental estimates of May breeding duck numbers indicated most species were in good shape going into the breeding season. But spring habitat conditions in much of prairie Canada were considered fair to poor this year. Still, Johnson said the number of ducks that migrate through North Dakota should be fair to good.

What to expect: Blue-winged teal represent about a third of the state's duck production, but they're also among the first to leave each fall. Gadwall and mallards also are primary species, and numbers of both are up from last year. Roger Hollevoet of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Devils Lake office said gadwall are a great choice for young hunters because they're so abundant and willing to decoy. "If you want to get a kid to start hunting, find a good gadwall slough," Hollevoet said.

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About those geese: Snow goose and Canada goose populations remain high, and large numbers will migrate through North Dakota this fall, Johnson of Game and Fish said. Small Canada geese from the migratory Tall Grass Prairie population, and Midcontinent snow geese both had below-average years on their arctic nesting grounds, so hunters can expect fewer young birds, Johnson said. That typically makes hunting more difficult.

Regulations/licensing: For a closer look at season dates, bag limits and licensing requirements, check out the North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Guide, gf.nd.gov/regulations/waterfowl/index.html

Related Topics: HUNTING
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