Anyone born after 1961 is required to take a certified hunter education course prior to obtaining a hunting license (with a couple of exceptions).
A one time apprentice license is available to those who would like to try hunting prior to taking the hunter education course. If you have an apprentice license, you must be accompanied by a licensed adult when hunting. Note: An individual who was issued an apprentice hunter validation license in 2020-21 may receive another.
Hunter education courses are taught by volunteers and offered throughout the year (though most are held January - March).
To legally hunt ducks in North Dakota you need the appropriate licenses. Note: If you are unsure if you meet North Dakota residency requirements for purchasing a license, take a look at our residency page.
Must possess the following licenses:
- Harvest Information Program registration,
- Fishing, Hunting, and Furbearer Certificate,
- Either a Small Game License (Not required of residents under age 16) with a General Game and Habitat License
a Combination License (includes Small Game, General Game and Habitat, Furbearer, and Fishing licenses),
- Federal Migratory Bird Stamp (Duck Stamp) - required of all hunters 16 years of age and older.
Must possess the following licenses:
- Harvest Information Program registration (exception: not required to hunt crows),
- Nonresident Fishing, Hunting, Furbearer Certificate,
- General Game and Habitat License,
- Federal Migratory Bird Stamp (Duck Stamp) - required of all hunters 16 years of age and older,
- Nonresident waterfowl license - two types are available:
- A statewide license, good for two 7-day periods or one 14-day period, or
- A zone-restricted license that requires the nonresident to select hunting zones (see **Nonresident Waterfowl Hunting Zones) according to the following restrictions:
- A nonresident must select Zone 1 or Zone 2 for one seven-day period and Zone 3 for the other seven-day period, or
- Zone 3 for the full 14 days or two seven-day periods, or
- Zones 1 and 3 concurrently for the same 7-day period or zones 2 and 3 concurrently for the same 7-day period. This option effectively reduces the license to seven days only, as the two 7-day periods are run at the same time.
Nonresident Youth Hunting Licenses - A nonresident under age 16 need only purchase a North Dakota resident fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate and a North Dakota resident general game and habitat license to hunt small game and waterfowl, except swans and wild turkeys. To be eligible, a nonresident youth must not turn 16 before September 1 of the year for which the license is issued, and must possess a certificate of completion for a certified hunter education course. The nonresident youth may only hunt under the supervision of an adult family member or legal guardian.
Water Hunting Strategies
Jump Shooting – This method entails taking a concealed approach and sneaking up on loafing waterfowl and when close enough, flushing or jumping the birds, picking a single bird at a time to target.
Pass Shooting – Encompasses many aspects required for hunting ducks over decoys such as scouting and picking a desirable hunting location, but instead of decoying birds, hunters intercept birds passing over a particular course.
Hunting over decoys – This method is designed to decoy ducks within close shooting range.
Proper decoy placement is often debated while sitting in a duck blind, but ultimately how one deploys decoys is based on experience and personal preference. Keep in mind if something is not working, don’t be afraid to change things up.
Considerations when setting out decoys:
- Place your outermost decoys no further than you are comfortable shooting. Ducks will frequently skirt or attempt to land on the outside of the decoy spread
- Play the wind – Ducks often land into the wind. Deploying your decoys upwind or perpendicular to the wind increases your odds of ducks flying/landing from in front of you.
- Don’t set up looking into the sun – this makes spotting incoming birds and identification difficult.
- Don’t be afraid to modify your spread or move to a more desirable location if ducks are not working your spread.
Example decoy spreads
Leave an opening
When placing decoys leave an open space(s) for ducks to land in. An open area within the decoys will entice ducks into close shooting range as they attempt to land amongst the decoys.
Openings do not have to be exceptionally large. A ten foot by ten foot opening can be sufficient. Decoys may also be deployed in separate pods with enough space for ducks to land between them.
The J-hook works well with a crossing wind (coming from the hunters left or right).
This decoy spread is shaped like a “J” with more numerous decoys being placed upwind at the curved end of the “J” with decoys being strung out in a narrow grouping as they are placed down wind from the curve.
Ducks approaching from downwind follow the long part of the “J” spread landing in the curved end with the bulk of the decoys.
- Using a duck call to get the attention of and attract ducks to your spread can be very effective.
- Calling is often more effective on ducks that have not been heavily hunted or birds that recently moved or migrated into a new area.
- Be conscious of how ducks are reacting to calling and alter accordingly.
- Over calling – Even lightly pressured ducks may flare due to over calling. Adjust amount and volume of calling to keep them interested.
- Call shy - ducks that experience hunting pressure may become call shy. If you have not had new birds move into your area for some time, try calling less or not at all.
Calling the shot
NOTE: Always identify the species of the bird you are targeting prior to firing. Be sure that your target fits your bag limit.
Low light v. bluebird conditions
Birds may be more likely to decoy under low light conditions, but they are harder to identify – colors will not stand out as much. May have to identify based on other characteristics such as shape and size.
Pick one bird to shoot at. Don’t flock shoot.
In theory, one would think there is a better chance of hitting one or more birds by shooting at a flock but that is most often not the case. Plus, multiple species of waterfowl may come decoy in the same flock that have different limits
Only take ethical shots within shooting distance and your comfort zone
Shooting too far may increase the number of birds you cripple and need to chase. Shoot within established shooting safety zones. Watch for dogs that break and other non-game species which you might encounter while waterfowl hunting (shorebirds, raptors, pelicans, etc.)
As a migratory game bird, ducks might be carrying a metal leg band – if you harvest any birds with bands, report the band numbers at: www.reportband.gov.
The Duck Factory
A History of Waterfowl Hunting in North Dakota
Do you still have questions about hunting ducks in North Dakota?