September 19, 2007
CONDITIONS VARY FOR WATERFOWL HUNTERS, SAYS USFWS
Waterfowl hunters should have good opportunities in the southeastern and north-central parts of the state, as well as north of Jamestown, including the Devils Lake area, when the season opens for state residents on Saturday. However, a mid-week survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes that water conditions in the northwest and central portions of the State are poor and waterfowl numbers are low.
Some portions of northeastern North Dakota should offer good hunting. Roger Hollevoet, project leader for the Devils Lake Wetland Management District, points to Nelson County and parts of Benson County as having good water conditions and good waterfowl production. He reports seeing flocks of feeding mallards and groups of teal, and expects a very good opening week for hunters. Hollevoet says scouting will be necessary, especially in the western part of the district, which has been drier.
Water conditions are variable in north-central North Dakota. Biologist Dan Duchscherer of J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge says conditions are fair in Rolette and Pierce counties, while McHenry and Bottineau counties are drier. He says the refuge is holding quite a few ducks, fair numbers of Canada geese and a few sandhill cranes.
Hunters in central North Dakota should be able to find pockets of ducks and geese, but no large concentrations yet. Wetland manager Kathy Baer of Audubon National Wildlife Refuge says water conditions are better than last year, but not good. She suggests hunters try Sheridan County, which has more water than McLean or Ward counties.
Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Burleigh and Kidder counties was holding about 1,500 Canada geese, about 1,500 sandhill cranes and some teal and gadwall at mid-week. Manager Paul VanNingen says conditions are spotty in surrounding areas, with ducks scattered wherever they find water. He also reports decent localized populations of Canada geese, though some are moving to larger wetlands.
Hunters in southeastern North Dakota probably won’t find any large concentrations of ducks or geese, but water conditions are good and birds are starting to bunch up. Biologist Jesse Lisburg of Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge advises duck hunters to do some scouting and they will find ducks. He notes that Canada geese are feeding south and northeast of Lake Tewaukon, as well as the Park Lake area near the Sargent-Richland County line, and near Milnor.
Northern Stutsman County has good water conditions and quite a few ducks. Biologist Andy Jewett of the Chase Lake Wetland Management District says even some of the temporary wetlands still have water. He reports seeing quite a few ducks as well as flocks of Canada geese ranging from 20 to a few hundred birds.
Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge biologist Paulette Scherr expects a fair to good opening weekend for waterfowl hunters. She says the refuge is holding about 500 Canada geese, fair numbers of mallards, gadwall and blue-winged teal, a few diving ducks and a handful of tundra swans. In the surrounding areas, the Alice Waterfowl Production Area in southwestern Cass County and Thiesen Marsh Waterfowl Production Area in northwestern Stutsman County, as well as scattered wetlands in Eddy and Foster counties all had good duck populations.
Hunters in LaMoure and Dickey counties could enjoy a good opening weekend. Refuge manager Mick Erickson of the Kulm Wetland Management District says Logan and McInosh counties aren’t as wet, but ducks are scattered throughout the area. Erickson adds there are no large concentrations of ducks or geese, though he is seeing many small groups of resident Canada geese. He warns that the early start of the season means hunters could have a difficult time identifying birds.
Southwestern Barnes County should offer excellent hunting opportunities this weekend. Biologist Matt VanThuyne of the Valley City Wetland Management District says that area is holding quite a few teal and mallards, but not many geese.
Water conditions are very poor in northwestern North Dakota. Tim Kessler, refuge manager at the Crosby Wetland Management District, says it’s even drier than last year, and production has been poor. Kessler adds that hunters may find some local ducks and Canada geese on deeper wetlands in eastern Divide and western Burke counties.
Mountrail County is extremely dry. Operations specialist Chad Zorn of Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge recommends hunters scout the Berthold area, but he warns that water is hard to find. Despite the dry conditions, Zorn says he has been seeing some gadwall and teal.
Although the area surrounding Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge near Kenmare is very dry, the refuge has enough water to support good waterfowl populations once the migration begins. However, refuge manager Dan Severson says there are few concentrations so far. He estimates the refuge is holding only about 2,000 ducks–mostly mallards, about 700 Canada geese and no snow geese or white-fronted geese. Severson adds that most of the area’s small grain crops have been harvested, providing plenty of areas for waterfowl to feed.
Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge near Minot was holding more coots than ducks or geese at mid-week. Law enforcement officer Shawn Tripp says the upper end of the refuge has good numbers of ducks in a variety of species, but only a few Canada geese and sandhill cranes.
Saturday’s opener will mark the second year of the “hunter’s choice” concept. Under hunter’s choice, the daily limit is five ducks, with these restrictions: two scaup, two redheads and two wood ducks, and only one from the following group: hen mallard, pintail or canvasback.
The only major regulations change from last year is the addition of light geese to the list of geese that are included in all day hunting on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
Opening day for nonresident waterfowl hunters is September 29. Nonresidents may not hunt on N.D. Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or conservation PLOTS areas from October 13-19.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.