Published September 11, 2023

Bighorn Licenses, Upland Game Survey

Written by
The Dakotan
| The Dakotan

ND Game and Fish News

Six Bighorn Sheep Licenses
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department allocated six bighorn sheep licenses for the 2023 hunting season, one more than last year.
One license was issued in unit B1, one in B3, two in B4 and one in B5. In addition, one license, as authorized under North Dakota Century Code, was auctioned in May by the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, from which all proceeds are used to enhance bighorn sheep management in North Dakota.
A record 20,290 applicants applied for bighorn sheep. Successful applicants have been notified.
Prospective hunters were required to apply for a bighorn license earlier this year on the bighorn sheep, moose and elk application.

Upland Game Brood Survey
North Dakota’s roadside surveys conducted in late July and August indicate pheasant, gray partridge and sharp-tailed grouse numbers were up.
State Game and Fish Department upland game biologist RJ Gross said survey conditions were exceptional this year, which might have led to increased observations, but survey conditions shouldn’t have large effects on brood sizes or age ratios, which were also up.
“Hunters should expect to find similar or higher numbers than last year, with good numbers of hatch-year birds in their bags,” Gross said.
Total pheasants observed (65 per 100 miles) are up 61% from last year and broods (7.5) per 100 miles are up 70%. The average brood size (6.3) is up 2%. The final summary is based on 282 survey runs made along 100 brood routes across North Dakota.
Observers in the northwest counted 13.5 broods and 113 pheasants per 100 miles, up from 11 broods and 96 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six.
Results from the southeast showed 5.4 broods and 49 pheasants per 100 miles, up from five broods and 29 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six.
Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicated 9.8 broods and 86 pheasants per 100 miles, up from five broods and 48 pheasants in 2022. Average brood size was six chicks.
The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat with lower pheasant numbers compared to the rest of the state, showed one brood and seven pheasants per 100 miles, compared to two broods and 18 pheasants last year. Average brood size was five.
Gross said sharptails had above average production and have rebounded back to the good years of 2011-15.
“Hunters should expect to find a good ratio of hatch-year grouse in 2023,” he added. “Much of the increase in sharptail observations was driven by a rebounding population in the southwest district.”
Sharptails observed per 100 miles are up 116% statewide. Brood survey results show observers recorded 2.6 broods and 29 sharptails per 100 miles. Average brood size was six.
Partridge observed per 100 miles are up 200%. Observers recorded 2.4 broods and 36 partridge per 100 miles. Average brood size was 11.
Generally, Gross said, most of the partridge harvest is incidental while hunters pursue grouse or pheasants. But this year, partridge numbers looked impressive, as for the first time more partridge were observed than sharptails on brood routes.
“Partridge numbers are tied with an all-time high, dating all the way back to 1992,” Gross said.
The grouse and partridge seasons continue through Jan. 7, 2024.
The pheasant season opens Oct. 7 and continues through Jan. 7, 2024. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Youth Deer Season
Friday, Sept. 15 at noon Central time signals the start of a nine-and-a-half-day deer hunting season for licensed youth hunters.
Residents who are 11, 12 or 13 in 2023 can hunt statewide for antlerless white-tailed deer.
Resident deer gun hunters who are 14 or 15 in 2023 can hunt statewide with a youth season license for any deer, except for antlered mule deer in units 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F where a special license is required.
The youth license is valid during the youth and regular deer gun seasons.
After opening day, hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Orange clothing is required for youth hunters and mentors.
Each young deer hunter must be under direct supervision of an adult. The adult is prohibited from carrying a firearm or bow while accompanying the youth hunter in the field during the youth season.
The youth deer season closes Sept. 24.

Youth, Military Waterfowl Weekend
Introduce a youngster to duck hunting during North Dakota’s two-day youth waterfowl weekend Sept. 16-17. In addition, the special veteran and active military personnel waterfowl season is set for the same weekend.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has a Virtual Duck Hunting Mentor webpage with all the basics, including license requirements, regulations, gear recommendations and tips for finding a place to hunt.
Legally licensed resident and nonresident youth waterfowl hunters 15 and younger, and veterans and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training), may hunt ducks, geese, coots and mergansers statewide.
The daily bag limit and species restrictions are the same as for regular duck and goose seasons. However, the additional two blue-winged teal allowed during the first 16 days of the regular season are not allowed during this weekend.
Resident and qualifying nonresident youth waterfowl hunters must possess a general game and habitat license.
Veterans and members of the Armed Forces must possess a resident hunting license, which includes a general game and habitat license and a small game license.
Hunters 16 and older must also possess a federal waterfowl stamp, and youth 12 and older need to have passed a certified hunter education course.
In addition, all hunters must be Harvest Information Program certified. Hunters who do not HIP certify when they buy a North Dakota license can add it by visiting the state Game and Fish Department website.

Sandhill Crane Season
North Dakota’s sandhill crane season opens Sept. 16 and runs through Nov. 12.
Limits are three daily and nine in possession in unit 1 (west of U.S. Highway 281), and two daily and six in possession in unit 2 (east of U.S. Highway 281). Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to 2 p.m. each day.
Hunters are urged to use caution and identify birds to prevent shooting at endangered whooping cranes as they begin their fall migration.
In addition to other licenses required, resident hunters need a $10 crane permit, while nonresidents need a $30 permit. Hunters can buy a license online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.
Harvest Information Program certification is required. To get HIP certified, access the Game and Fish website.

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