The good news for North Dakota hunters is that the 2017 waterfowl season is similar to
last year as far as regulations and bag limits. Continental duck numbers are about the
same as last year as well, and goose populations that frequent North Dakota
There is, however, a “not so good news” element to the general fall waterfowl forecast,
and that relates to drought conditions over much of the Prairie Pothole Region in North
Dakota since this spring. That’s primarily the reason North Dakota Game and Fish
Department biologists estimate a fall duck flight from North Dakota that will be down 8
percent from last year, based on observations from the annual mid-July waterfowl brood
In other words, local duck production is a bit lower than last year, but still pretty good.
Looking at the regulations for this year, one noteworthy change is that the daily limit on
pintails is reduced from two to one. Also, the west boundary of the Missouri River
Canada goose aone, north of N.D. Highway 200, is extended to N.D. Highway 8.
Opening day this year for North Dakota residents is Sept. 23 for ducks, geese, coots
and mergansers. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Sept. 30.
The youth waterfowl weekend is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16-17.
Hunters may take six ducks per day with the following restrictions: five mallards of which
two may be hens, three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two canvasbacks and
one pintail. Similar to last year, hunters can take an additional two blue-winged teal from
Sept. 23 through Oct. 8.
For ducks and mergansers, the possession limit is three times the daily limit.
The bag limit for Canada geese during the regular season is eight daily and 24 in
possession, except in the Missouri River zone where the limit is five daily and 15 in
Details from the summer survey indicate this year’s brood index came in at 3.68 broods
per square mile, down 5 percent from last year. The statewide average since the survey
began in 1955 is 2.59 broods per square mile.
Migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said production was
better in the northern tier of the state, with northernmost routes experiencing increased
counts over last year. "Moving south and east, fewer broods were observed than in
2016," he said.
Observers also count water areas during the summer survey, and this year’s water
index was 38 percent lower than last year. Due to drought conditions and sparse
precipitation since snowmelt, Szymanski said summer wetland conditions were
“It was already starting to dry up when we did our spring survey, and the pattern
continued,” Szymanski added. “It definitely affected how breeding pairs settled in the
state. Temporary and seasonal wetlands were the first to be hit. Luckily, most medium-
sized and larger wetlands were only starting to show stress at the time of the survey.”
While it was too late to boost this year's production, August rains did help replenish
some wetlands. Whether that pattern continues, or we head back into another dry
stretch, will have a significant influence on waterfowl production heading into next year.