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News Releases

North Dakota Game and Fish Department

North Dakota Game and Fish Department

News Releases

Agency Garners National Recognition

The Center for Digital Government announced the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and North Dakota Information Technology as winners of the 2023 Government Experience Awards. The award recognizes the achievements of states, cities and counties across the nation that have raised the bar on the experience of government services to create a better engaged constituency and a more responsive government. NDIT and the Game and Fish Department were selected as a State Government Experience Winners for the Department’s parcel project.

“North Dakota Information Technology and North Dakota Game and Fish did an amazing job of adding value to our residents and customers,” said Natasa Radunovic, NDIT team lead. “The Game and Fish team is such a fun and hardworking group of people, always ready for a new challenge. Their dedication, transparency, and collaboration are what help deliver our shared purpose to empower people, improve lives and inspire success.”

Launched in 2021, the electronic posting project, spearheaded by Brian Hosek, Game and Fish Department business operations manager, is a tool for both landowners and hunters to identify posted lands digitally within the state. This results in reduced cost and effort to post land physically, while ensuring it meets legal posting requirements.

“State parcels have always been a top data priority for the state. There are numerous use cases for this information that benefit many citizens of North Dakota. The state’s electronic posting system is one example,” Hosek said. “The collaboration and talent of this team, including Melvin Faris, NDIT and Shane Wegner, Game and Fish Department, has resulted in a successful outcome for electronic posting and the state parcel project.”

Whooping Crane Migration

Whooping cranes are in the midst of their fall migration and sightings will increase as they make their way through North Dakota over the next several weeks. Anyone seeing these endangered birds as they move through the state should report sightings so the birds can be tracked.

The whooping cranes that do travel through North Dakota are part of a population of about 500 birds on their way from nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to wintering grounds in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, a distance of about 2,500 miles.

Whoopers stand about 5 feet tall and have a wingspan of about 7 feet from tip to tip. They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight, they extend their long necks, while their long, slender legs extend behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of two to three birds, and may be associated with sandhill cranes.

Other white birds such as snow geese, swans and egrets are often mistaken for whooping cranes. The most common misidentification is pelicans, because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.

Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location and the birds' activity. Observers should also look for and report colored bands, which may occur on one or both legs. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.

Whooping crane sightings should be reported to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, 701-848-2466; Audubon, 701-442-5474; the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, 701-328-6300; or to local game wardens across the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers, and identify times and migration routes.

Waterfowl Hunters and ANS Regulations

Waterfowl hunters should do their part in preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species into or within North Dakota.

Hunters must remove aquatic plants and plant fragments from decoys, strings and anchors; remove aquatic plant seeds and plant fragments from waders and other equipment before leaving hunting areas; remove all water from decoys, boats, motors, trailers and other watercraft; and remove all aquatic plants from boats and trailers before leaving a marsh or lake. In addition, hunters are encouraged to brush their hunting dogs free of mud and seeds.

Cattails and bulrushes may be transported as camouflage on boats. All other aquatic vegetation must be cleaned from boats prior to transportation into or within North Dakota.

Drain plugs on boats must remain pulled when a boat is in transit away from a water body.

In addition, hunters are reminded of a state law that requires motorized watercraft, including motorized duck boats, operated on state waters and not licensed in North Dakota, to display an ANS sticker, including an ANS fee of $15 to be paid each calendar year.  

For more ANS information, including regulations, or to purchase the ANS sticker, visit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website,

Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest

The deadline for submitting entries in the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest is Oct. 2.

The contest has categories for nongame and game species, as well as plants/insects. An overall winning photograph will be chosen, with the number of place winners in each category determined by the number of qualified entries.

Photographers should go to the Game and Fish Department’s website at Then it is a matter of providing some pertinent information about the photo and uploading it. Doing so helps both with ease of submitting photos for the photographer and managing those images for department staff. 

Contestants are limited to five entries. Photos must have been taken in North Dakota.

By submitting an entry, photographers grant permission to Game and Fish to publish winning photographs in North Dakota OUTDOORS, the department’s website and social media channels.

Waterfowl Season

North Dakota’s waterfowl season opens for residents Sept. 23, while nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl Sept. 30.

The season for swans opens Sept. 30 for both residents and nonresidents who have purchased a swan license.

Hunters may take six ducks, including mergansers, per day with the following restrictions: five mallards of which two may be hens, three wood ducks, two redheads, two canvasbacks, one scaup and one pintail. Mergansers are included in the total duck limit with no species restrictions. Hunters can take two additional blue-winged teal Sept. 23 through Oct. 8.

The hunting season for Canada geese will close Dec. 16 in the eastern zone, Dec. 21 in the western zone and Dec. 29 in the Missouri River zone. The season for whitefronts closes Dec. 3, while the season for light geese is open through Dec. 29.

Shooting hours for all geese are one-half hour before sunrise to 2 p.m. each day.

Extended shooting hours for all geese are permitted from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset on Saturdays and Wednesdays through the end of each season. Starting Nov. 26, all day hunting is also allowed on Sundays through the end of each season. 

The bag limit for Canada geese during the regular season is eight daily and 24 in possession, except in the Missouri River zone where the limit is five daily and 15 in possession.

The daily limit on whitefronts is three with nine in possession, and light geese have a daily limit of 50 with no possession limit.

In accordance with state law, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or conservation Private Land Open To Sportsmen areas from Oct. 7-13, with the exception of nonresidents hunting on PLOTS land they own.

Hunters who do not HIP certify when they buy a North Dakota license can add it through the Game and Fish website at Those who registered to hunt North Dakota’s spring light goose season or August Management Take/Early September Canada goose season do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required in each state only once per year.

Hunters should refer to the North Dakota 2023-24 Hunting and Trapping Guide for further details on the waterfowl season.

Hunting from Duck Boats

Waterfowlers hunting from boats are encouraged to wear properly fitted life jackets while on the water.

Hunting coats with life jackets built in are light and comfortable to wear. In addition, wearing a life jacket will not only keep the overboard hunter afloat, but also slow the loss of critical body heat caused by exposure to cold water.

Capsizing and falling overboard from small boats are the most common types of fatal boating accidents for hunters.

Youth Deer Season

Friday, Sept. 15 at noon Central time signals the start of a nine-and-a-half-day deer hunting season for licensed youth hunters.

Residents who are 11, 12 or 13 in 2023 can hunt statewide for antlerless white-tailed deer.

Resident deer gun hunters who are 14 or 15 in 2023 can hunt statewide with a youth season license for any deer, except for antlered mule deer in units 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F where a special license is required.

The youth license is valid during the youth and regular deer gun seasons.

After opening day, hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Orange clothing is required for youth hunters and mentors.

Each young deer hunter must be under direct supervision of an adult. The adult is prohibited from carrying a firearm or bow while accompanying the youth hunter in the field during the youth season.

The youth deer season closes Sept. 24.

Sandhill Crane Season

North Dakota’s sandhill crane season opens Sept. 16 and runs through Nov. 12.

Limits are three daily and nine in possession in unit 1 (west of U.S. Highway 281), and two daily and six in possession in unit 2 (east of U.S. Highway 281). Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to 2 p.m. each day.

Hunters are urged to use caution and identify birds to prevent shooting at endangered whooping cranes as they begin their fall migration.

In addition to other licenses required, resident hunters need a $10 crane permit, while nonresidents need a $30 permit. Hunters can buy a license online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website,

Harvest Information Program certification is required. To get HIP certified, access the Game and Fish website.

Upland Game Brood Survey

North Dakota’s roadside surveys conducted in late July and August indicate pheasant, gray partridge and sharp-tailed grouse numbers were up.

State Game and Fish Department upland game biologist RJ Gross said survey conditions were exceptional this year, which might have led to increased observations, but survey conditions shouldn’t have large effects on brood sizes or age ratios, which were also up.

“Hunters should expect to find similar or higher numbers than last year, with good numbers of hatch-year birds in their bags,” Gross said.

Total pheasants observed (65 per 100 miles) are up 61% from last year and broods (7.5) per 100 miles are up 70%. The average brood size (6.3) is up 2%. The final summary is based on 282 survey runs made along 100 brood routes across North Dakota.

Observers in the northwest counted 13.5 broods and 113 pheasants per 100 miles, up from 11 broods and 96 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six.

Results from the southeast showed 5.4 broods and 49 pheasants per 100 miles, up from five broods and 29 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six.

Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicated 9.8 broods and 86 pheasants per 100 miles, up from five broods and 48 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six chicks.

The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed one brood and seven pheasants per 100 miles, compared to two broods and 18 pheasants last year. Average brood size was five.

Gross said sharptails had above average production and have rebounded back to the good years of 2011-15.

“Hunters should expect to find a good ratio of hatch-year grouse in 2023,” he added. “Much of the increase in sharptail observations was driven by a rebounding population in the southwest district.”

Sharptails observed per 100 miles are up 116% statewide. Brood survey results show observers recorded 2.6 broods and 29 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was six.

Partridge observed per 100 miles are up 200%. Observers recorded 2.4 broods and 36 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 11.

Generally, Gross said, most of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. But this year, partridge numbers looked impressive, as for the first time more partridge were observed than sharptails on brood routes.

“Partridge numbers are tied with an all-time high, dating all the way back to 1992,” Gross said.

The grouse and partridge seasons continue through Jan. 7, 2024.

The pheasant season opens Oct. 7 and continues through Jan. 7, 2024. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Youth, Military Waterfowl Weekend

Introduce a youngster to duck hunting during North Dakota’s two-day youth waterfowl weekend Sept. 16-17. In addition, the special veteran and active military personnel waterfowl season is set for the same weekend.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has a Virtual Duck Hunting Mentor webpage with all the basics, including license requirements, regulations, gear recommendations and tips for finding a place to hunt.

Veterans and members of the Armed Forces on active duty who possess a resident hunting license, including National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training), and resident and nonresident youth waterfowl hunters 15 and younger, may hunt ducks, geese, coots and mergansers statewide.

The daily bag limit and species restrictions are the same as for regular duck and goose seasons. However, the additional two blue-winged teal allowed during the first 16 days of the regular season are not allowed during this weekend.

Resident and qualifying nonresident youth waterfowl hunters must possess a general game and habitat license.

Veterans and members of the Armed Forces must possess a resident hunting license, which includes a general game and habitat license and a small game license. 

Hunters 16 and older must also possess a federal waterfowl stamp, and youth 12 and older need to have passed a certified hunter education course.

In addition, all hunters must be Harvest Information Program certified. Hunters who do not HIP certify when they buy a North Dakota license can add it by visiting the state Game and Fish Department website.

Six Bighorn Sheep Licenses

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department allocated six bighorn sheep licenses for the 2023 hunting season, one more than last year.

One license was issued in unit B1, one in B3, two in B4 and one in B5. In addition, one license, as authorized under North Dakota Century Code, was auctioned in May by the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, from which all proceeds are used to enhance bighorn sheep management in North Dakota.

A record 20,290 applicants applied for bighorn sheep. Successful applicants have been notified.

Prospective hunters were required to apply for a bighorn license earlier this year on the bighorn sheep, moose and elk application.

Remaining Fall Turkey Licenses Available Sept. 20

The fall wild turkey lottery has been held and more than 1,400 licenses remain in 13 units. Unsuccessful applicants will have a refund issued to their credit card.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Central time on Sept. 20, all remaining licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters are allowed a maximum of five licenses for the fall season. 

Resident and nonresident hunters must purchase a license online at the Game and Fish website, 

The fall turkey season runs Oct. 14 – Jan. 7, 2024. 

Licenses remain for the following units: Unit 03, Benson and Ramsey counties and a portion of Pierce County, (20); Unit 04, portions of Billings and Golden Valley counties, (82); Unit 13, Dunn County, (604); Unit 19, Grant and Sioux counties and portions of Morton County, (53); Unit 25, McHenry County and portions of Pierce and Ward counties, (304); Unit 27, McKenzie County, (24); Unit 30, portions of Morton County, (132); Unit 31, Mountrail County, (28); Unit 40, Rolette County and portions of Bottineau, Renville and Pierce counties, (15); Unit 44, Slope County, (34); Unit 45, Stark County, (37); Unit 47, Eddy, Foster, Kidder, Sheridan, Stutsman and Wells counties, (35); and Unit 51, Burke County, Renville County and a portion of Ward County, (81).