Fall Turkey Hunting Guide
--- The following is from the 2020 season. This information will be updated for 2021 after the 2021 proclamation has been signed. ---
This guide is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as a complete listing of regulations. For other specific information on regulations and laws visit the Game and Fish Department website, or for North Dakota state laws go to www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/T20-1.html.
Fall Turkey Season Guide (pdf)
Table of Contents
Restricted to fall season dates and unit described on license.
30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
Who May Apply - Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply in the first lottery. If licenses remain after the first lottery, state law allows nonresidents to apply.
Hunter Education Requirement - Persons born after December 31, 1961 must complete a certified state or provincial hunter education course in order to purchase a North Dakota hunting license. Exceptions: Persons who hunt only on land they own or operate, and persons under age 12 (those under age 12 may hunt if they have an appropriate license and are under direct supervision of a parent or guardian). In addition, individuals who are 12 years of age and older, who have not taken the hunter education course, may be issued an apprentice hunter validation that enables them to hunt small game for one license year. Contact the Game and Fish Department for details.
Minimum Age - There is no minimum age for hunting turkeys, but all hunters under age 15 afield with firearms must be under direct supervision of a parent, guardian or adult authorized by their parent or guardian.
General - Licenses are issued by weighted lottery after the number of gratis licenses is deducted from the total available.
Gratis - Gratis licenses are available to North Dakota residents owning, or leasing for agricultural purposes and actively farming or ranching, at least 150 acres of land located in an open hunting unit, and are valid only upon land described on the application and subsequently the license.
Other Licenses Required - Hunters, regardless of age, must also possess a general game and habitat license. In addition, resident hunters age 16 and older must possess a small game license or a combination license before hunting wild turkeys. (Gratis license holders exempt.)
Hunting Over Bait
Placing of bait for any purpose is prohibited on Department wildlife management areas. Hunting over bait is defined as the placement and/or use of bait(s) for attracting wildlife to a specific location for the purpose of hunting. Baits include but are not limited to grains, seeds, minerals, salts, fruits, vegetables, hay, or any other natural or manufactured foods.
Hunting over bait is also not allowed on all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas; U.S. Forest Service national grasslands; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed lands; and all North Dakota state school, state park and state forest service lands.
Each license holder may take and possess one wild turkey of any sex or age per license, not to exceed five licenses per person. Party hunting is not allowed.
Immediately after a turkey is taken, the hunter must indicate the date of kill by cutting out the appropriate month and day from the tag provided with the license, and attach it around the leg of the turkey to prevent its removal. It is not legal to possess or transport a turkey unless it is properly tagged. The tag shall remain with the carcass until it is packaged as food. No person may reuse or attempt to reuse any tag issued. All used tags must be kept in possession until the meat is consumed or disposed of.
License holders must accompany their own wild turkey during transportation, except that it may be shipped by licensed public carrier in receipt of proper bill of lading.
Firearms and Archery Equipment
Shotguns - Only shotguns no larger than 10 gauge and capable of holding not more than three shells in the magazine and chamber are legal. Minimum barrel length is 18 inches. Fully automatic firearms are illegal.
Rifles - Only muzzleloading long guns are legal. Centerfire rifles and rimfire rifles are not legal for hunting wild turkeys.
Bows and Arrows - A bow must be pulled, held and released by hand. Any release aid may be used providing it is hand operated, the shooter supports the draw weight of the bow, and the release is not attached to any part of the bow other than at the bowstring. A compound bow used for hunting turkeys must have at least 35 pounds of draw at 28 inches or less draw length. Recurve and long bows used for hunting turkeys must have at least 35 pounds of draw at 28 inches. Arrows must be at least 24 inches long, tipped with a metal broadhead, with at least two sharp cutting edges, and have a cutting diameter of at least 3/4 inch (i.e., not able to pass through a 3/4 inch ring). It is illegal to hunt turkeys with barbed arrows. Broadheads with mechanical or retractable blades are legal. Telescopic sights, range finding devices, battery powered or electronically lighted sights or other electronic devices attached to the bow, or the arrow, are not permitted (exception: lighted nocks and recording devices which do not aid in range finding, sighting or shooting the bow). Handheld range-finding devices are legal. Arrows capable of causing damage or injury in excess of that inflicted by the cutting edges of the broadhead are prohibited (e.g., explosive arrow points, arrows tipped with drugs or chemicals, and pneumatic or hydraulic shafts are illegal).
Handguns - Handguns of .35 caliber and larger with 4 inch or greater barrel length are legal.
Other Firearms/Archery Restrictions
- Crossbows are not legal, except with a permit from the Game and Fish director. Contact the Department for additional information on crossbow regulations.
- It is illegal to go afield with a firearm or bow and arrow while intoxicated.
- Firearms must be unloaded and encased within the boundaries of any national park.
- It is illegal to hunt upon the premises of another within 440 yards of any occupied building without the consent of the person occupying such building. Exception: Hunting is not prohibited on land owned by neighbors (private or public) even if the land is located less than 440 yards from the occupied building.
Aircraft and Motor-Driven Vehicles
- Aircraft, manned or unmanned, may not be used to drive, concentrate, rally, raise, stir up or disturb game.
- Motor-driven vehicles may not be used to pursue game.
- It is illegal to shoot with bow and arrow or firearm while in or on a motor-driven vehicle.
- Unless otherwise authorized under N.D.C.C., no person may carry a firearm with a cartridge in the chamber in or on a motor-driven vehicle while hunting turkeys. The entire cylinder of a revolver is considered the chamber, requiring the revolver to be completely unloaded. Handguns with removable magazines or clips must have the magazine or clip removed from the firearm if the magazine or clip contains any loaded shells. It is illegal to carry any muzzleloader in or on a motor-driven vehicle with a percussion cap or primer on the nipple or powder in the flash pan.
- Motor-driven vehicles may only be used on established roads or trails. Except for persons having a special disability permit, no person may use a motor-driven vehicle while in the process of hunting turkeys or aid another in the process of hunting turkeys, including travel to and from the hunting location unless the motor-driven vehicle is on an established road or trail. Exception: a landowner or a lessee who actively farms or ranches the land, or a person having written permission from the landowner or lessee, may use a motor-driven vehicle off of an established road or trail to hunt turkeys except during the deer gun season.
- Motor-driven vehicles may not be used off established roads and trails on state wildlife management areas, federal waterfowl production areas, and any other areas where motor-driven vehicles are restricted.
- Established roads or trails do not include temporary trails made for agricultural purposes.
- No person may use motor-driven vehicles on North Dakota Game and Fish Department Conservation PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) property without permission from the landowner. These areas have been entrusted to the public for walking access through written agreements with private landowners. The boundaries of these properties are identified by large yellow triangular signs.
Areas Closed to Hunting
Federal or state properties such as refuges, sanctuaries, military installations, parks and historic sites posted no trespassing or hunting are closed to hunting wild turkeys.
When hunting near the boundaries of closed refuges, sanctuaries, military installations, parks or historic sites, make sure you are familiar with any retrieval restrictions that may apply.
School trust lands are open to nonvehicular public access, including hunting, unless posted with ND Department of Trust Lands signs. The only established trails on Department of Trust Lands available for public use are those that are signed with Game and Fish Department trail markers. See the ND Department of Trust Lands hunting page at www.land.nd.gov/public-access-information for additional information.
Nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or Private Land Open To Sportsmen areas from October 10-16, 2020.
Posting and Trespass
- Only the owner or tenant, or an individual authorized by the owner, may post land by placing signs alongside a public highway or boundary giving notice that no hunting is permitted on the land. The name of the person posting the land must appear on each sign in legible characters. The signs must be readable from outside the land and must be placed conspicuously and not more than 880 yards apart. On land entirely enclosed by a fence or other enclosure, posting of signs at or on all gates through the fence or enclosure constitutes a posting of all the enclosed land.
- Hunting on posted lands without permission from the owner or tenant is illegal and punishable by suspension of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for a period of at least one year.
- Hunting on posted land without permission can be prosecuted even if the land is not posted to the letter of the law.
- Any person may enter upon legally posted land (without a firearm or bow) to recover game shot or killed on land where he/she had a lawful right to hunt.
- It is illegal to hunt in unharvested cereal and oilseed crops, including sprouted winter wheat, alfalfa, clover and other grasses grown for seed, without the landowner’s consent, regardless of whether the land is posted or not.
- It is illegal to deface, take down or destroy posting signs.
- Failure to close gates upon exit or entry is a criminal violation punishable by forfeiture of hunting licenses.
Road Rights of Way
Do not hunt on road rights-of-way unless you are certain they are open to public use. Most road rights-of-way are under control of the adjacent landowner and are closed to hunting when the adjacent land is posted closed to hunting.
No person shall kill, cripple, waste, destroy, spoil or abandon the edible flesh (breast meat) of any wild turkey without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird, and retain it in his/her actual custody, at the place where taken and between that place and either (a) his/her personal permanent residence, (b) a taxidermist, or (c) a common carrier.
Licenses Available by Unit
A maximum of 75 turkey licenses will be issued for an experimental turkey season for the city of Bismarck and specific surrounding areas. Licenses are available at the Game and Fish headquarters in Bismarck after a person has received a valid city archery permit. The season opens October 10 and closes January 31, 2021.
A maximum of 75 turkey licenses will be issued for an experimental bow season on the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation land south of Bismarck. Licenses are available at the Game and Fish Department after a person receives an access permit from NDDOCR. The season opens October 10 and closes January 31, 2021.
A maximum of 45 turkey licenses will be issued for an experimental bow season for the city of Fargo and specific surrounding areas. Licenses are distributed to those licensed to bow hunt deer within the city limits of Fargo. Licenses are available at Game and Fish headquarters in Bismarck after a person has received a valid city archery permit. The season opens October 10 and closes January 31, 2021.
A maximum of 105 turkey licenses will be issued for an experimental turkey season for the USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Lab in Mandan. Licenses are distributed to those licensed to bow hunt deer within the Northern Great Plains Research Lab. Licenses are available at Game and Fish headquarters in Bismarck. Other details are determined by the USDA-ARS.The season opens October 10 and closes January 31, 2021.
Hunting by Nontribal Members on North Dakota Indian Reservations
If an individual hunts exclusively on Indian lands within an Indian reservation, a tribal license is required and a state hunting license is not required. Hunting on nontribal lands within an Indian reservation requires a state hunting license. Game taken legally with a tribal license within an Indian reservation may be possessed and transported anywhere in North Dakota. Portions of some units are located on Indian reservations. Contact reservation tribal offices for more information.
- Fort Berthold – Game and Fish Department, 404 Frontage Road, New Town, ND 58763, 701-627-4760.
- Standing Rock – Game and Fish Department, Box 549, Fort Yates, ND 58538, 701-854-7236.
- Turtle Mountain – Department of Natural Resources, Box 570, Belcourt, ND 58316, 701-477-2604.
- Spirit Lake – Fish and Wildlife Department, Box 359, Fort Totten, ND 58335, 701-766-1243.
Be Safe - Wear Orange Clothing
While hunting in an area where any big game gun hunting season is in progress, the Game and Fish Department recommends that turkey hunters wear a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline of solid daylight fluorescent orange totaling at least 400 square inches.
Sunrise and Sunset Times
Map of Open Hunting Units
Description of Open Hunting Units
- Unit 02 – Barnes County, Cass County, Griggs County, Steele County and Traill County.
- Unit 03 – Benson County, Pierce County east of ND Highway 3 and south of ND Highway 17, and Ramsey County. NOTE: In addition to a Unit 03 fall wild turkey license, a special permit is required to hunt in Graham’s Island State Park. Special restrictions will be required when hunting in the park. Contact the park office for additional information and for obtaining these free permits (701) 766-4015.
- Unit 04 – Those portions of Billings and Golden Valley counties south of I-94.
- Unit 06 – Bowman County.
- Unit 13 – Dunn County.
- Unit 17 – Those portions of Billings and Golden Valley counties north of I-94.
- Unit 19 – Grant County, Sioux County, and that part of Morton County south of I-94 that lies west of Morton County Road 86 (the Almont to Carson road) and that part of Morton County north of I-94 that lies west of ND Highway 31.
- Unit 21 – Hettinger County and Adams County. CLOSED IN 2020.
- Unit 25 – McHenry County and that part of Pierce County west of ND Highway 3 and that part of Ward County that lies east of US Highway 83.
- Unit 27 – McKenzie County.
- Unit 30 – Morton County except for that part of Morton County south of I-94 that lies west of Morton County Road 86 (the Almont to Carson road) and except that part of Morton County north of I-94 that lies west of ND Highway 31.
- Unit 31 – Mountrail County.
- Unit 37 – Dickey County, LaMoure County, Logan County, McIntosh County, Ransom County, Richland County and Sargent County.
- Unit 40 – Rolette County, and those portions of Bottineau and Renville counties east of US Highway 83 and that portion of Pierce County north of ND Highway 17.
- Unit 44 – Slope County.
- Unit 45 – Stark County.
- Unit 47 – Eddy County, Foster County, Kidder County, Sheridan County, Stutsman County and Wells County.
- Unit 50 – Cavalier County, Grand Forks County, Nelson County, Pembina County, Towner County and Walsh County.
- Unit 51 – Burke County, all of Renville County except that portion east of US Highway 83, that part of Bottineau County west of US Highway 83, and that part of Ward County that lies west of US Highway 83.
- Unit 53 – Williams County and Divide County.
- Unit 98 – Burleigh County, Emmons County and McLean County.
- Unit 99 – Mercer County and Oliver County.
This program encourages people to report wildlife violations, remain anonymous if they prefer, and receive monetary rewards for convictions based on their information. Anonymous callers will be given a special code number and are not required to give their name. Rewards range from $100 to $1,000 depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime. Call 701-328-9921. Call this number only to report game and fish violations. The reward fund is supported by private donations. If you wish to donate to the RAP program, tax deductible contributions can be sent to RAP, Box 1091, Bismarck, ND, 58502-1091.