Bighorn Sheep, Elk and Moose Hunting Regulations
--- 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. If you desire specific information on regulations and laws, visit the Game and Fish Department website (for season proclamations) or for North Dakota state laws go to www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/T20-1.html.
Table of Contents
- Season Dates, Restrictions - Bighorn Sheep
- Season Dates, Restrictions - Moose
- Season Dates, Restrictions - Elk
- Information for All Successful Applicants
- Bag Limit
- Hunting Big Game Over Bait
- Tagging Requirements
- Transportation and Storage
- Firearms and Archery Equipment
- Orange Clothing Requirements
- Other Restrictions
- Use of Animals
- Aircraft, Motor-Driven Vehicles, Lights
- Areas Closed to Hunting
- Posting and Trespass
- Road Rights of Way
- Wanton Waste
- Hunting by Nontribal Members on North Dakota Indian Reservations
- Moose Landowner Preference License
- Elk Landowner Preference License
- Unit Descriptions
- Sunrise and Sunset Times
- Report All Poachers Program
Information for All Successful Applicants
- Hours of hunting for all species are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
- All successful applicants should attend an instructional meeting prior to hunting. The Game and Fish Department will notify licensees of meeting times and places.
- Be prepared to hunt the entire season. Good physical conditioning is desirable because of weather variables and difficult terrain.
- Bighorn sheep, moose and elk are found on both private and public lands. Permission is required before entering posted private land. The Game and Fish Department strongly encourages hunters to make arrangements ahead of time.
Who May Apply - North Dakota residents are eligible to apply for bighorn sheep, moose and elk licenses. Nonresidents can apply for only a bighorn sheep license. No one may apply for a species for which he/she received a lottery license in previous years. (Exception: certain preferential landowner licensees.)
Hunter Education Requirement - Hunters born after December 31, 1961, must complete a certified state or provincial hunter education course and present the certification card to a license vendor to purchase a North Dakota hunting license. Persons who hunt only on land they own or operate are exempt from this requirement. The apprentice license is not valid for bighorn sheep, moose or elk.
Minimum Age - The minimum age for hunting bighorn sheep, moose or elk is 14 on or before December 31, 2020. Anyone under age 15 afield with firearms must be under direct supervision of a parent, legal guardian or other adult authorized by a parent or guardian.
General - Licenses are nontransferable. No person may give away, barter or sell an issued license.
Other Licenses Required - In addition to the bighorn sheep, elk or moose license, hunters must also possess a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate ($1) and a general game and habitat license ($20) or combination license ($50).
Licenses Available by Species and Unit
One additional bighorn sheep license is authorized to be auctioned under bid guidelines set forth by the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation. This license is valid for any open unit.
|Unit E1E||90 licenses||30 any, 60 antlerless|
|Unit E1W||60 licenses||25 any, 35 antlerless|
|Unit E2||140 licenses||50 any, 90 antlerless|
|Unit E3||205 licenses||85 any, 120 antlerless|
|Unit E4||10 licenses||10 any|
|Unit E6||14 licenses||4 any, 10 antlerless|
- The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Outdoor Adventure Foundation are each allocated one additional elk license. These licenses are valid for any open unit and any elk regardless of age or sex, and may be used in either the bow season or regular season.
- Not more than two additional elk licenses may be issued to eligible organizations for a raffle or auction. These licenses are valid for any open unit and any elk regardless of age or sex, and may be used in either the bow season or regular season.
|Unit M5||5 licenses||5 any moose|
|Unit M6||10 licenses||10 any moose|
|Unit M8||15 licenses||15 any moose|
|Unit M9||120 licenses||45 any, 75 antlerless|
|Unit M10||190 licenses||70 any, 120 antlerless|
|Unit M11||130 licenses||55 any, 75 antlerless|
- The Outdoor Adventure Foundation and the North American Wildlife Enforcement Memorial Museum and Educational Center are each allocated one additional moose license. These licenses are valid for any open unit and any moose regardless of age or sex, and may be used in the bow season or regular season.
- Not more than two additional moose licenses may be issued to eligible organizations for a raffle or auction. These licenses are valid for any open unit and any moose regardless of age or sex, and may be used in either the bow season or regular season.
Bighorn Sheep - One male bighorn sheep.
Elk - One elk of the type designated on license. Type of elk includes “antlerless” or “any” elk.
Moose - One moose of the type designated on license. Type of moose includes “antlerless” or “any” moose.
All elk or moose with at least one visible antler are considered “antlered.”
Hunting Big Game Over Bait
Placing of bait for any purpose is prohibited on Department wildlife management areas. Baits include but are not limited to grains, minerals, salts, fruits, vegetables, hay or any other natural or manufactured foods. The designation does not apply to the use of scents and lures, water, food plots, standing crops, or livestock feeds used in standard practices.
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; and all North Dakota state school, state park and state forest service lands.
Immediately after an animal has been killed, the hunter must indicate the date of kill by cutting out the appropriate month and day from the tag provided with the license, and securely attach it to the antler on an antlered animal, the horn on a horned animal, or in a slit in the ear on an antlerless animal. The tag shall remain in place with the horns, antlers or head until March 31, 2020. After the antlers, horns, head or hide have been removed from the carcass, the carcass tag shall remain with the carcass until the processed meat is consumed, or until March 31, 2021. A bighorn sheep may be tagged on the leg or rear quarter with evidence of sex naturally attached.
In no case is it legal to possess or transport a moose, elk or bighorn sheep unless it is properly tagged. No person may reuse or attempt to reuse any tag issued. Tags are nontransferable. When any part of an animal is mounted, if the tag is removed from the horns, antlers or ear, the tag must be securely fastened to the back or bottom of the mount and remain there.
Anyone who harvests a bighorn sheep in North Dakota must have it plugged by North Dakota Game and Fish Department personnel.
Mandatory Elk and Moose Harvest Reporting - Elk and moose lottery license holders are required to provide hunter harvest information no later than January 15, 2021. Failure to do so will result in loss of eligibility for all lottery licenses in 2021.
Transportation and Storage
Hunters harvesting a moose in units M10 and M11 or an elk in units E2 and E6 cannot transport the whole carcass including the head and spinal column outside of the unit. However, hunters can transport the whole moose carcass between units M10 and M11. Exceptions: meat that has been boned out; quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; meat that is cut and wrapped either commercially or privately; hides with no heads attached; skull plates with antlers attached having no hide or brain tissue present; intact skulls with the hide, eyes, lower jaw and associated soft tissue removed, and no visible brain or spinal cord tissue present; antlers with no meat or tissue attached; upper canine teeth, also known as buglers, whistlers or ivories; and fi nished taxidermy heads.
License holders must accompany their game animal, or parts thereof (excluding hide), during transportation, unless a permit for the transportation of game is issued by the Department upon request. Game may be shipped by common carrier (shipping companies, commercial meat processors and taxidermists) in receipt of proper bill of lading. A moose, elk or bighorn sheep carcass must be accompanied by the head (except in units where CWD regulations apply as stated above) to the final place of storage. No resident of the state may ship big game or parts thereof (other than hides) out of state without a permit from the Department. It is illegal to possess or transport another’s game animal, or parts thereof (excluding hide), without the license holder accompanying or as otherwise permitted. Processed and packaged meat (cut/ground and wrapped) of legally taken game may be gifted to another. Unprocessed, unpackaged game meat may be gifted as follows: 1) Prior to reaching the licensee’s personal residence a transportation permit must be obtained and accompany the game meat; 2) After reaching the licensee’s personal residence if accompanied by the name and address of the licensee.
Commercial processors and common carriers may possess any person’s legally taken possession limit of game.
Firearms and Archery Equipment
Regular Season - Centerfire rifles of .25 caliber or larger are legal for elk and moose, while a .243/6 mm caliber is the minimum for bighorn sheep. Centerfire rifles of .50 caliber or larger using smokeless powder are prohibited. Muzzleloading rifles or single shot muzzleloader pistols of .50 caliber or larger are legal. Rifles must have a minimum barrel length of 16 inches. Rifled slugs of 20 gauge or larger are legal for shotguns. All legal bow equipment as listed in the bow season section is legal during the regular season.
Minimum barrel length for shotguns is 18 inches. Handgun (pistol, revolver or single shot) cartridge cases under .40 caliber must be at least 1.285 inches in length and bullets must be at least .257 inches in diameter. Handgun cartridge cases of .40 caliber or larger must be at least .992 inches in length. In addition, any handgun designed to fire a legal rifle cartridge is legal. Fully automatic firearms, full metal jacketed bullets which are nonexpanding, and altered projectiles are prohibited.
Pre-charged pneumatic air guns, charged from an external high compression source such as an air compressor, air tank or an external hand pump are legal for elk, moose and sheep but must fire a projectile (excluding air bolts) of at least .45 caliber in diameter and at least 350 grains in weight with a minimum muzzle velocity of 600 feet per second.
Bow Season - 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 the bowstring. Bows used for hunting moose, elk or bighorn sheep must have at least 50 pounds of draw at 28 inches or less draw length. 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). Broadheads used for hunting moose, elk and bighorn sheep must be unbarbed (barbed refers to an arrowhead with any fixed portion of the rear or trailing edge of the arrowhead forming an angle less than 90 degrees with the shaft) and have fixed blades (i.e., broadheads with mechanical or retractable blades manufactured to stay open are illegal). 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, except a lighted nock and recording devices which do not aid in range finding, sighting or shooting the bow are permitted.
Handheld range-finding devices are legal. Arrows capable of causing damage or injury to the animal in excess of that inflicted by the cutting edges of the broadhead are prohibited while hunting big game with a bow (e.g. explosive arrow points, arrows tipped with drugs or chemicals, and pneumatic or hydraulic shafts are illegal). Hunters may possess handguns while hunting big game with a bow license. However, handguns may not be used to assist in the harvest of the big game animal. Crossbows are not legal, except with a permit from the Game and Fish director. When permitted, crossbows must: a) have a peak draw weight of at least 75 pounds, b) be equipped with a working safety to prevent accidental firing, c) use bolts or arrows at least 14 inches in length. Crossbows equipped with pistol grips and designed to be fired with one hand are illegal. Telescopic sights attached to a crossbow with a maximum power of 8x32 are legal.
Nonlicensees - No bighorn sheep, moose or elk licensee hunting in the field during the bighorn sheep, moose or elk season may be accompanied by a nonlicensee carrying the same type of firearm or bow as the licensee. For the purpose of this section “type of firearm or bow” means one of the following: a) centerfire rifles; b) handguns; c) muzzleloading firearms; d) archery equipment; or e) shotguns. A nonlicensee is a person not having a bighorn sheep, moose or elk license for the same season and unit as the person with the license.
Orange Clothing Requirements
All big game hunters are required to wear a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline of solid daylight fluorescent orange color, totaling at least 400 square inches. This requirement doesn’t apply during the elk and moose bow seasons.
- It is illegal to go afield with a firearm or bow 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 the building. This does not prohibit hunting on land owned by neighbors (private or public) even if the land is less than 440 yards from the occupied building.
Use of Animals
It is illegal to use any animal except horses or mules as an aid in the hunting or taking of big game.
Aircraft, Motor-Driven Vehicles, Lights
- It is illegal to use all types of aircraft, manned or unmanned, for spotting game 72 hours prior to and during the hunting season. During hunting season a licensee cannot hunt the same day he/she is airborne over their hunting unit, with the exception of a scheduled passenger airline flight. It is illegal to drive, concentrate, rally, raise, stir up or disturb game with all types of aircraft, manned or unmanned.
- Motor-driven vehicles may not be used to pursue game.
- It is illegal to shoot with a bow 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. The entire cylinder of a revolver is considered the chamber, requiring a 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 muzzleloading firearm 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. (Exception: After an animal has been killed and properly tagged, a motor-driven vehicle may be used to retrieve the animal by leaving the established road or trail and proceeding to the carcass by the shortest accessible route and returning to the road or trail immediately by the same route.)
- Motor-driven vehicles may not be used off established roads and trails for retrieval on state wildlife management areas, U.S. Forest Service national grasslands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands, federal waterfowl production areas, federal refuges, state trust lands, and any other areas where motor-driven vehicles are restricted. Except for hunters having a special disability permit, no person may use a motor-driven vehicle while in the process of hunting big game, or aid another in the process of hunting big game, including travel to and from the hunting location unless the motor-driven vehicle is on an established road or trail.
- 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.
- It is illegal to use any artificial light for the purpose of locating or observing big game between sunset of one day and sunrise of the next. State law prohibits any harassment of big game animals.
- The use of night vision equipment, electronically enhanced light-gathering optics or thermal imaging equipment for locating or hunting big game is prohibited.
Areas Closed to Hunting
Unless specifically authorized, federal or state properties such as refuges, sanctuaries, military installations, parks and historic sites posted to trespassing or hunting are closed to hunting.
PLOTS Areas – In accordance with NDCC 20.1-08-04.9, nonresidents may not hunt any game from October 10 through October 16 on North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or on Conservation PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) areas.
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 website for additional information.
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.
Posting and Trespass
- Only the owner or tenant, or an individual authorized by the owner, may post land by placing signs 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 the outside of the land and must be placed conspicuously not more than 880 yards apart. As to 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 land 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 owner’s consent. 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 that 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 or cripple any big game animal without making a reasonable eff ort to retrieve and retain the big game animal in his/her actual custody. No person shall waste, destroy, spoil or abandon the edible flesh of a big game animal at the place where taken or between that place and either (a) his/her personal residence; (b) a taxidermist; (c) a common carrier; or (d) a commercial processor.
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.
Moose Landowner Preference License
Any resident who owns, or leases for agricultural purposes and actively farms or ranches, a minimum of 150 acres of land in the following units is eligible to apply for landowner moose licenses. For 2020, zero in M5; one in M6; two in M8; 18 in M9; 28 in M10; and 19 in M11. Landowner licenses are valid for any moose. Landowner moose license holders may hunt only upon land described on their application in the unit applied for.
If a landowner moose license holder is unsuccessful in harvesting a moose, that person may return the unused license to the Department and apply for a license to hunt moose in future years.
Elk Landowner Preference License
Any resident who owns, or leases for agricultural purposes and actively farms or ranches, a minimum of 150 acres of land in designated areas is eligible to apply for a landowner preference elk license. For 2020, allocation of these licenses is as follows: unit E1E, 13 licenses; unit E1W, nine licenses; unit E2, 21 licenses; unit E3, 30 licenses; unit E4, licenses issued in accordance with exemptions provided under N.D.C.C. 20.1-03-11.7; unit E6, two licenses. Individuals who receive a landowner preference license must pay the appropriate big game license fee.
Preferential licenses for units E1E, E1W, E2 and E6 may be used until filled, in both bow and regular seasons subject to the rules of the season. Landowner preference licenses are valid for any elk. Landowner preference licenses are not valid in unit E5. Landowner elk license holders may hunt anywhere in the unit where their qualifying land is located. Unit E3 or E4 preferential elk licenses may be used to harvest an elk causing depredation from May 1–July 31. License holders intending to harvest a depredating elk must notify the Game and Fish Department at least 24 hours prior to harvesting an animal, and also must notify the Department within 24 hours after the harvest takes place.
Unit E4 – An area in Billings and Golden Valley counties north of Interstate 94 (excluding all of Theodore Roosevelt National Park), composed of the following land:
- Golden Valley County
- T. 140 N. R. 103 W. All N. of I-94
- T. 141 N. R. 103 W. Sec. 25-27 & 34-36
- Billings County
- T. 141 N. R. 100 W. Sec. 19, 30 & 31
- T. 141 N. R. 101 W. All except T.R.N.P.
- T. 142 N. R. 101 W. Sec. 25-36
- T. 140 N. R. 102 W. All except T.R.N.P. and south of I-94
- T. 141 N. R. 102 W. All except T.R.N.P.
- T. 142 N. R. 102 W. Sec. 19-36
Unit E5 – The remainder of the state not included in a designated unit.
Unit E6 – That portion of Sioux County east of ND Highway 31.
RAP Program (Report All Poaching)
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.