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Conditions were good this year in duck-producing wetlands in most of North Dakota.

North Dakota’s duck season has an official beginning and end date.

The last day, while officially designated on the calendar, typically falls sometime after freeze-up, when most North Dakota-raised ducks and migrants from Canada have headed south.

The opener, on the other hand, always has reason for anticipation. This year, the duck season opens Sept. 21 for North Dakota residents (Sept. 28 for nonresidents), and state Game and Fish Department waterfowl biologist Mike Szymanski covered the prospects on a recent Outdoors Online webcast. Here’s some of his insight on what hunters can expect this year.

Habitat Conditions

“Our wetland conditions were very good this year in most of the state. Especially the southern part of the state, we had a lot of good water to start with, and then a lot of consistent water throughout the breeding season that really helped. Going back into late May, early June we continued to have rain, so even those areas that started off the year in May that were fair to good, they actually improved a little bit during the duck nesting and brood rearing months. So it was really beneficial. We had really good production throughout most of the state.

“We're still producing ducks as we speak, which is very abnormal to see young mallard broods this time of year. It's not something that happens too often, so it's a lot of things coming together that are very good. It's having good wetland and grass habitat to start, but then also the extremely wet conditions in some of these areas that have allowed these birds to keep trying with nesting attempts that they normally wouldn't have had opportunities to do in a typical year.”

Early Hunting Prospects

“It should be pretty good. You know, it's always better when we have good local production. It's a little bit more of a sure thing for us.

“The weather patterns start affecting how the fall flight goes out of Canada. And it's a hard thing to predict how it'll work out for us. Sometimes we get them, sometimes we don't. So it's really good to have your own local production to work off of, and we've got it this year. And things are pretty dry in Canada, but they've kind of had consistent rain throughout the year.

“So they maybe weren't starting off the best for attracting breeding pairs, but I think their production will be all right. It's not something we're going to really lean on hard to make or break our hunting season, but I think it'll be all right and hunters will see some birds coming down too.”

New Regulations

Our big one is we've got the reduction in the pintail bag limit, going from two to one. So that's something people are going to really need to look out for. There was pretty decent pintail production in some areas, so folks are going to encounter a fair number of those birds.

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Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

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