Wildlife Management Areas - Regulations
There are 200-plus wildlife management areas in North Dakota. Unless otherwise specified, WMAs are open to hunting, fishing and trapping. Check current hunting and fishing regulations and proclamations for details. Most WMAs are ideal for nature study, hiking, and primitive camping.
Public Use Regulations for State Wildlife Management Areas
The following rules are authorized by Chapter 20.1-11 of the North Dakota Century Code and established in Chapter 30-04-02 of the North Dakota Administrative Code.
- Public access and use. State wildlife management areas are open for public hunting, fishing and trapping, or other compatible public use, except as otherwise provided by governor’s proclamation, or as posted at public road entry points.
- Motor vehicles. Mallard Island on Wolf Creek WMA and Matthews Island on de Trobriand WMA are closed to the use of all motorized vehicles and aircraft. On all other wildlife management areas, the use of all motorized vehicles is restricted to those constructed roads, established trails and parking areas used by passenger cars. Established roads and trails do not include temporary trails across cultivated land used for agricultural purposes. Motor vehicles may be used on the ice of lakes for access unless otherwise prohibited by posting or by proclamation. Persons operating any motor vehicle on the ice of any lake or other water area on a wildlife management area do so at their own risk. Motor vehicles may not be used off established roads and trails for retrieval of big game or for waterfowl hunting on wildlife management areas, except where allowed by governor’s proclamation or as posted at public road entry points.
- Watercraft. Watercraft cannot be left unattended on a wildlife management area unless the watercraft is being used daily. The Department may have horsepower or other watercraft restrictions on some wildlife management area lakes, as posted at entry points. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $50 fee.
- Firearms. Use of firearms on wildlife management areas is allowed, except in a reckless and indiscriminate manner, and as otherwise posted at public road entry points. A person discharging a firearm on a Department-designated target range shall not be considered to be engaging in indiscriminate shooting. The use of tracer rounds and/or exploding targets is prohibited on all wildlife management areas. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Littering and abandonment of property. The disposal of refuse, rubbish, bottles, cans, or other waste materials is prohibited except in garbage containers where provided. Abandonment of vehicles or other personal property is prohibited. Camper holding tanks may not be dumped within a state wildlife management area.
- Removal and destruction of property. Archaeological artifacts or cultural resources, trees, shrubs, vines, plants, gravel, fill, sod, water, crops, firewood, posts, poles, or other property may not be mowed, clipped, cut, or removed from a wildlife management area without a permit issued by the director. Firewood may be removed under certain stated conditions from Department designated firewood cutting plots. Commercial cutting of firewood is prohibited on designated firewood cutting plots. Gathering of downed wood for campfires is permitted. Due to emerald ash borer concerns, no imported firewood may be used on any wildlife management area. Removal of property from a wildlife management area by permit shall be only in a manner, limit, and conditions specified by the permit. Berries and fruit may be picked, for noncommercial use unless prohibited by posted signs at public road entry points. Property may not be destroyed or defaced.
- Private property and structures. No person shall construct or maintain any building, cabin, dock, fence, beehive, billboard, sign, or other structure on any wildlife management area except by permit issued by the director. Fish houses may be used during the ice fishing season in accordance with the governor’s proclamation. Duck, goose, crane, and other types of decoys may not be left unattended.
- Cropping, haying and commercial enterprises. No person may conduct any cropping, haying, or other commercial enterprise on any wildlife management area, except by lease or permit issued by the director.
- Animals prohibited. The director has determined that animals, other than free-ranging wildlife that may be found on wildlife management areas, are detrimental to the protection and propagation of wildlife and other natural resources.
- Livestock. Livestock shall not be permitted to graze or roam on any wildlife management area except as provided for by a grazing permit or lease issued by the director. “Livestock” means domestic animals and nontraditional livestock.
- Pets. Pets may not be permitted to run unattended on wildlife management areas. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $50 fee.
- Horseback riding. A person may engage in casual horseback riding or trail riding on wildlife management areas. Groups of 25 or more individual riders, or 25 or more horses or other equine animals, must first obtain a permit from the director. No person may engage in, conduct, or organize any competitive or noncompetitive activity involving the use of horses or other equines to conduct racing, barrel racing, roping, jumping, or other activities that cause unnecessary disturbance to the wildlife and wildlife habitat. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Group activities. Activities attended by more than 25 people are prohibited without a permit issued by the director. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Camping. Camping for longer than 10 consecutive days on any wildlife management area is prohibited. Trailers, campers, motor homes, or tents may not be left on any wildlife management area unless used for daily lodging. Camping is prohibited on those wildlife management areas where posted at public road entry points. Overnight camping is now prohibited on the following WMAs: Antelope Creek, Big Oxbow, Lewis and Clark, Neu’s Point, Och’s Point, Overlook, Sullivan and Tobacco Garden, McKenzie County; Van Hook, Mountrail County; Duncklee and Billings, Pembina County; and Hofflund and Trenton, Williams County. The following WMAs are closed to camping on Tuesdays and Wednesdays except holidays, but open to camping Thursday-Monday: Bull Creek, Billings County; Alkali Creek and Spring Creek, Bowman County; Smishek Lake and Short Creek Dam, Burke County; Apple Creek, Burleigh County; Harris M. Baukol, Divide County; Killdeer Mountains, Dunn County; Camels Hump Lake, Golden Valley County; Audubon, Custer Mine, Deepwater Creek, deTrobriand, Douglas Creek and Wolf Creek, McLean County; Beaver Creek and Hille, Mercer County; Crown Butte Lake, Morton County; Cedar Lake and Speck Davis Pond, Slope County; and McGregor Dam, Williams County. On those WMAs where camping is allowed Thursday through Monday, all equipment must be removed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when camping is not allowed.
- Mowing. Mowing vegetation for campsites is prohibited on wildlife management areas. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Noise. Excessive noise, which unreasonably disturbs other individuals, is prohibited on wildlife management areas. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $50 fee.
- Tree stands, ground blinds, game cameras and traps. No person may construct or use a permanent tree stand or permanent steps to a tree stand or permanent ground blind on any wildlife management area. Portable tree stands and portable steps, screw-in steps, natural tree stands, portable ground blinds, and game cameras may be used. Portable tree stands and portable steps are defined as those that are held to the tree with ropes, straps, cables, chains, or bars. Screw-in steps are those that are screwed into the tree by hand without the aid of any tools. Ladder-type stands that lean against the tree are portable stands. A notched board placed in a tree crotch is a portable stand. Natural stands are crotches, trunks, downed trees, etc., where no platform is used. The owner's name, city and telephone number, or equipment identification number issued by the Department must be on the tree stand, portable ground blind, game cameras and traps, and be readable from the ground. Tree stands and ground blinds do not preempt hunting rights of others in the vicinity of the tree stand, ground blind, or game camera. Tree stands, steps, ground blinds and game cameras may not be put up before August 20 and must be taken down by January 31 of the following year. Stands, steps, ground blinds and game cameras not removed by January 31 are considered abandoned property and subject to removal and confiscation. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Dogs. No person may conduct, permit, or carry out field trials for dogs on any wildlife management area without first obtaining a permit from the director. Training of bird and gun dogs is prohibited April 1 through August 15 on all wildlife management areas. Training of dogs on any wildlife management areas by a professional trainer is prohibited at all times. Any individual, other than a professional trainer, in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Glass beverage containers or kegs prohibited. No person may use or possess glass beverage containers or kegs on any wildlife management area. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Baiting. Placing of bait for any purpose is prohibited on Department wildlife management areas. Exception: A person may use bait to lure and take furbearers when engaged in lawful trapping activities. Bait includes grains, minerals, salt, fruits, vegetables, hay, or any other natural or manufactured feeds. Bait does not include the use of lures, scents, or liquid attractants for hunting, or Department management activities. Any individual in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Fireworks, model rocket engines, or combustible or explosive materials prohibited.
- No person may possess, discharge, or set off within any wildlife management area any form of fireworks, model rocket engine, or combustible or explosive material unless authorized by the director.
- The term “fireworks” means any combustible or explosive composition, or any substance or combination of substances or article prepared to produce a visible or audible effect by combustion, explosion, deflagration, or detonation. The term includes any blank cartridge, toy pistol, toy cannon, toy cane, or toy gun in which an explosive other than a toy paper cap is used; balloon that requires fire underneath to propel the balloon; firecracker, torpedo, skyrocket, Roman candle, daygo bomb, sparkler, or other item of like construction; item containing any explosive or flammable compound; or any tablet or other device containing any explosive substance.
- Model rocket engine means a commercially manufactured, non-reusable rocket propulsion device constructed of a nonmetallic casing and solid propellant wherein all the ingredients are selfcontained so as not to require mixing or handling by the user. The propellant charge may not exceed 2.2 ounces (62.37 grams) per engine.
- Combustible or explosive material does not include rifle, shotgun, or handgun ammunition; petroleum-based or synthetic fuels and lubricants when contained within a motor or recreational vehicle engine or drive train; or matches, butane, kerosene, propane, or similar fuels and devices used in the ordinary course of camping. Any person in violation is guilty of a noncriminal offense and shall pay a $100 fee.
- Paintballing prohibited. No person shall engage in any form of paintballing on any state wildlife management area unless authorized by the director. “Paintballing” refers to any sport in which participants eliminate opponents from play by hitting them with paintballs (spherical gelatin capsules containing primarily polyethylene glycol, other nontoxic and watersoluble substances, and dye) shot from a compressed gas-powered gun, commonly called a marker.
- Geocaching prohibited. No person shall engage in any form of geocaching on any state wildlife management area unless authorized by the director. “Geocaching” refers to an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called geocaches or caches). A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure.”
- Drones. Use of drones, or any unmanned radio-controlled aircraft, is prohibited unless authorized by the director.
*Rules specific to a certain WMA, other than the previously mentions, are posted at the WMA entrances.