Early season goose hunters have been in the field since August 15, bowhunters climbed into their tree stands starting August 30 and dove season opened shortly thereafter.
No doubt about it, the time of year that is so celebrated in our neck of the Northern Plains is upon us. North Dakota's hunting heritage is strong, which is something we all should be proud of. And let me assure you that the Game and Fish Department is doing everything in its power to make sure that this tradition continues.
The August-September issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS takes more than a casual look at what hunters might encounter as they venture afield this fall. From deer to ducks, you'll find forecasts of the animals you enjoy pursuing inside this publication.
It's not often that the stars align – the "stars" in this case being wildlife habitat and Mother Nature – and the countryside is flush with all species of wildlife. While 2013 isn't one of those years – it's no secret that deer numbers are down and the ring-necked pheasant population isn't gangbusters compared to a few years ago – the fall hunting opportunities North Dakota has to offer are nearly endless. And I haven't said anything about fall fishing, which can be outstanding as the leaves turn and we start the too-fast slide into winter.
Just the mere mention of winter means I'm getting ahead of the game. The last thing I want to do is rush fall, arguably the best time of year to be outdoors in North Dakota.
In a perfect world, which would include plenty of free time, and a really, really short chore list, the autumn activities a person could pursue in earnest is impressive, including archery hunting for deer, beating the brush for pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and the often ignored ruffed grouse living in North Dakota's northern woodlands. There is also hunting for ducks and geese, which could be really good this fall.
When you read the waterfowl forecast by Mike Johnson, Department game management section leader, in this issue, you'll see that biologists are predicting a fall flight of ducks from North Dakota this year similar to those of 2007-11.
Johnson also says: "Numbers of resident Canada geese, Western Prairie Canada geese and arctic nesting Tallgrass Prairie Canada geese, snow geese and Ross's geese all remain high. Hunting opportunities for all these birds should again be good, but are highly dependent, as always, on fall weather conditions, especially for migrant birds."
The weather, as waterfowlers understand, plays such a huge role in hunting success. "Last fall, ducks and geese arrived early and stayed until nearly mid-November, providing one of the better hunting seasons in recent memory," Johnson said. "Similar weather patterns this fall would help hunters to enjoy our abundant waterfowl populations."
And I'm one of those hunters who would enjoy nothing more than to conceal myself in a stubble field and shoot some Canada geese. For the first time, the daily limit of Canada geese in the regular season is eight birds (five in the Missouri River Zone).
Here's to hoping our chore lists are short this fall so we can enjoy all the opportunities available in North Dakota's outdoors. Be safe, thank a landowner and take a kid hunting. Our hunting heritage is strong and we need to keep it that way.