North Dakota Duck Numbers Down

I’m not surprised by this. Dry conditions have degraded waterfowl habitat despite decent conditions early. While this report comes from North Dakota, it could probably be said about the region as a whole. It will be an interesting year. – Bret Amundson

From ND Game and Fish:

Aug. 2, 2021 
Duck Brood Numbers Drop Considerably
Early Canada Goose Dates Announced
Small Game, Waterfowl, Furbearer Regulations Set

Duck Brood Numbers Drop Considerably
State Game and Fish Department biologists expect a fall flight of ducks in North Dakota this fall that will be unfamiliar to many hunters.Mike Szymanski, Department migratory game bird management supervisor, said based on observations from the annual mid-July duck production survey, the 2021 fall flight is anticipated to be down 36% from last year, and similar to the 1970, 1979 and 1994 fall flights.“Hunters should expect waterfowl hunting to be difficult in North Dakota this year, with the lone bright spot being Canada goose hunting. Nonetheless, localized concentrations of ducks, geese and swans will materialize throughout the hunting season as birds migrate through the state,” Szymanski said. “Hunters should take advantage of early migrants like blue-winged teal during the first two weeks of the season. We won’t be able to depend on local duck production to the extent that we have in the past.”Drought has severely impacted breeding duck habitats across North Dakota. Breeding conditions varied from very poor to fair, and the wetland index declined by 80%.While 2.9 million ducks were estimated during the Department’s 74th annual breeding duck survey in May, Szymanski said then that behavioral cues suggested breeding efforts by those ducks would be low.He was correct.“Conditions are not good statewide and, after a high count in 2020, the decline in wetlands counted represented the largest one-year percentage-based decline in the 74-year history of the survey,” he said. “Overall, this year’s breeding duck index was the 48th highest on record, down 27% from last year, but still 19% above the long-term average.”The number of broods observed during the Department’s July brood survey dropped 49% from last year’s count and 23% below the 1965-2020 average. While the number of broods observed is the lowest since 1994, the count this year was still 62% above the 1965-1993 average. The average brood size was 6.46 ducklings, down 4% from last year’s estimate.The summer duck brood survey involves 18 routes that cover all sectors of the state, except west and south of the Missouri River. Biologists count and classify duck broods and water areas within 220 yards on each side of the road. The survey started in the mid-1950s, and all routes used today have been in place since 1965.Game and Fish biologists will conduct a separate survey in mid-September to assess wetland conditions heading into the waterfowl hunting season.“At this point, we are not overly concerned about undue negative impacts of the harvest on ducks during this season, but we’ll re-evaluate the situation during the federal regulations process,” Szymanski said. “One year of drought won’t be a disaster for ducks, but we could have issues if these conditions continue into next year.”

Early Canada Goose Dates Announced
North Dakota’s early Canada goose season dates are set, with bag limits and licensing requirements the same as last year.Opening day is Aug. 15 in all three zones. Closing dates are Sept. 7 in the Missouri River zone, Sept. 15 in the western zone and Sept. 22 in the eastern zone.Early Canada goose limits are 15 daily and 45 in possession.Limits and shooting hours are different from the regular season, while the zone boundaries remain the same. Shooting hours for early Canada goose are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.Residents need a $5 early Canada goose license and a general game and habitat license. Also, residents 16 and older need a small game license. Nonresidents need only a $50 early Canada goose license, and the license is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license. Licenses can be purchased online by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.Harvest Information Program certification is required and beginning Sept. 1 a federal duck stamp for hunters 16 and older is needed. Those who HIP registered to hunt the spring light goose conservation order in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required in each state only once per year.Waterfowl rest areas, closed to hunting during the regular season, are open during the early season. Most land in these rest areas is private, so hunters may need permission to access them.Hunting of Canada geese in August and early September is intended to reduce local Canada goose numbers, which remain high. Game and Fish is attempting to provide additional hunting opportunities that can increase pressure on locally breeding Canada geese.

Small Game, Waterfowl, Furbearer Regulations Set
North Dakota’s 2021 small game, waterfowl and furbearer regulations are set, and most season structures are similar to last year.Noteworthy items include:Opening day for ducks, geese, coots and mergansers for North Dakota residents is Sept. 25. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Oct. 2.The prairie chicken and sage grouse seasons remain closed due to low populations.Pre-charged pneumatic air guns are legal for taking beaver, raccoon, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, coyote and badger.The season on bobcat is split into two zones.Harvest limit for otters increased to 25.In accordance with state law, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt in Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or Private Land Open To Sportsmen areas from Oct. 9-15. Exception: nonresidents hunting on PLOTS land they own.Hunters and trappers can find the North Dakota 2021-22 Hunting and Trapping Guide, which includes upland game, migratory game bird and furbearer/trapping regulations and other information, by visiting the state Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Printed guides will be available at vendor locations in mid-August.For a complete listing of opening and closing dates, and daily and possession limits, refer to the table on pages 4-5 of the guide.

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