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Public Lands

Note: Not all lands owned by the agencies listed below are open to hunting. Please review the current hunting guides and PLOTS guide for specific lands open to hunting. Contact the North Dakota Game and Fish Department or the manager of the land on which you wish to hunt if you have questions.

State Wildlife Management Areas

State wildlife management areas are located throughout the state. Unless otherwise specified, WMAs are open to hunting, fishing and trapping. Check the current hunting and fishing regulations and proclamations for details. Most WMAs are ideal for nature study, hiking, and primitive camping.

Waterfowl Production Areas

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; about 263,000 acres in North Dakota. Almost all WPAs are found north and east of the Missouri River. Generally they are less than 640 acres, but some are larger.

National Wildlife Refuges

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these public lands encompass more than 200,000 acres. Many refuges allow deer and upland game hunting. Hunting opportunities vary, so contact individual refuges for details.

Wildlife refuges are also excellent sites for wildlife viewing. Many have auto tours and interpretive sites.

Information on specific refuges is available at each refuge headquarters.

Note: Use of nontoxic shot for all types of bird hunting is required on all land managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

State Trust Lands

Managed by the State Department of Trust Lands, North Dakota has more than 700,000 acres of state school trust lands, formerly known as state school land. Much of this land is leased for agricultural purposes, primarily cattle grazing. School trust land is generally open to hunting. However, operators leasing the land may close access if livestock is present.

U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service manages three national grasslands in North Dakota, totaling about 1.1 million acres. The largest, the Little Missouri National Grasslands, is about 1 million acres and contains much of western North Dakota’s badlands. Much of this land is leased for agricultural use, but is open to public access.

Bureau of Land Management

The BLM manages nearly 70,000 acres in North Dakota, much of it in the western part of the state. Much of this land is leased for agricultural use, but it is open to public access.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Corps of Engineers manages more than 500,000 acres, much of which is under the water of the state's major reservoirs like Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe, and a number of smaller lakes. The Corps manages some of the land surrounding these reservoirs, with public access usually available. The Corps also leases many thousands of acres to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for use as wildlife management areas.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The USBR manages close to 100,000 acres, much of which lies along the Garrison Diversion Canal project. A good share of this land is open to public access, while vehicle use on some roads is restricted.

North Dakota Forest Service

The state forest service owns land, primarily small parcels, in the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Hills. These areas are generally open to public access.

A Note About Private Land Access in North Dakota

While public land provides varied opportunities for hunters and anglers in North Dakota, much of the state's hunting takes place on private land. Permission is always required to hunt private land that is posted.