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Published September 14, 2009, 11:11 AM

Waterfowl season outlook promising in N.D., official says

Prospects for North Dakota’s upcoming waterfowl season are much improved over last year due to recharged water conditions across the state, according to Mike Johnson, game management section leader for the state Game and Fish Department.

Prospects for North Dakota’s upcoming waterfowl season are much improved over last year due to recharged water conditions across the state, according to Mike Johnson, game management section leader for the state Game and Fish Department. Opening day for North Dakota residents is Sept. 26 for ducks, coots, mergansers and geese. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Oct. 3.

Johnson said the fall flight of ducks from North Dakota is expected to be up about a third from 2008 and similar to 2004. The brood index from the Game and Fish Department’s annual mid-July survey was down 2 percent from 2008, but was twice the long-term average. The water index observed during the survey was up 132 percent from last year and 63 percent above the long-term average.

Prospects for the continental fall duck flight are good, Johnson mentioned, with North Dakota’s contribution well-above the long-term average.

“We had large numbers of breeding ducks this spring, and duck production in North Dakota was again high at 87 percent above the 1955-2008 average,” Johnson said.

Almost one-third of the duck production is blue-winged teal, which are early migrants, Johnson noted. “

Many blue-winged teal migrate through the state early, and while there are always some around at the start of the season, approximately 80-90 percent migrate out of the state by Oct. 1,” he said.

Continental estimates of May breeding duck numbers indicated that most species were in good shape going into the breeding season. However, spring habitat conditions in much of prairie Canada were considered fair-to-poor this year.

“Duck production from these areas is expected to be down,” Johnson said. “Despite these reports, the number of ducks that migrate through North Dakota should be fair to good. Of course, the success of this year’s waterfowl season is highly dependent upon our fall weather and habitat conditions, and the migration patterns they produce.”

Snow goose and Canada goose populations remain high and large numbers will migrate through the state this fall, Johnson noted. However, small Canada geese in the Tall Grass Prairie population, and Mid-Continent snow geese both had below average years on their arctic nesting grounds.

““Weather conditions in the arctic this spring were not good for goose production so hunters will see fewer young snow geese and small Canada geese,” Johnson added. “Reduced numbers of young birds in the fall flight make goose hunting more difficult.”

Hunters can find additional information on the status of ducks, geese and swans at the Internet website, flyways.us.

Resident hunters must possess a general game and habitat license and a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate. In addition, hunters ages 16 and older must have a small game license and federal duck stamp.

Nonresidents must purchase a nonresident waterfowl license, including the general game and habitat license, and certificate. Hunters age 16 and older must possess a federal duck stamp. Nonresident youth hunters from states that provide a reciprocal licensing agreement for North Dakota residents qualify for North Dakota resident licenses. See the 2009 North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Guide for details.

All migratory bird hunters are reminded to register with the Harvest Information Program prior to hunting. Hunters who purchase a license through the state Game and Fish Department website (gf.nd.gov) or instant licensing telephone number (800-406-6409) can easily get HIP certified.

Otherwise, hunters must call (888) 634-4798, or access the department’s Web site, and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate. Those who registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required only once per year in each state hunted.

Hunters should refer to the waterfowl hunting guide for season regulations including licensing requirements, dates, bag limits, season zones and nonresident hunting zones.

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