Plenty of Hunting Opportunities Remain in 2016

December 14, 2016 by  

For many, enjoying North Dakota’s outdoors in December means waiting for the ice to firm up for ice fishing, darkhouse spearfishing, or maybe muskrat trapping. But there’s no shortage of other things to do in the next few weeks while the ice is taking its time.

While most of the good duck, pheasant, goose and grouse hunting occurs before early December, opportunities abound even with the close of deer season, and the transition from fall to winter doesn’t have to be a period of downtime or disappointment to hunters.

Geese Missouri River

The season for Canada geese closes Dec. 22, except for the Missouri River Zone, which closes Dec. 30.

While the majority of pheasant hunters point toward late October and early November as their preferred time frame for chasing roosters, a couple of factors would give good reason to keep the shotgun handy deep into December.

First of all, when the high of early season wanes, hunter congestion seems to decrease. The longer the season wears on, the fewer hunters you’ll see braving colder temperatures and more winter-type conditions.

While the roosters may get very edgy, the point is, pheasant season in North Dakota runs through Jan. 8, and many hardy souls will milk every last day from the season.

The same goes for sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge, each providing quality hunting opportunities, though getting on top of birds late in the season can be a challenge.

One note on upland game: many national wildlife refuges opened to late-season upland game hunting opportunities after the close of the deer gun season. Check with your local refuge office to obtain maps for specific open and closed areas for pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse.

Another all-too-often overlooked fall hunt involves turkeys. The fall turkey season for those with licenses extends until Jan. 8. While all the allocated licenses are issued, if you’ve got one that you haven’t filled yet, remember, there’s plenty of season remaining.

And don’t forget late-season waterfowl hunting. Duck hunting in the high plains unit reopened Dec. 10 and continues through Jan. 1, 2017.

In addition, the season for Canada geese closes Dec. 22, except for the Missouri River Zone, which closes Dec. 30. Light goose hunting closes statewide Jan. 1, 2017.

Providing that weather conditions haven’t driven most of the geese out of state, December goose hunting provides one last crack at hardy waterfowl. Though cold, wind and snow can pose a significant obstacle, many hunters still relish this opportunity.

Finally, the end of the regular deer gun season is not the end of deer hunting. Archery season extends to Jan. 8.

There’s also predator hunting that might be getting an early start with fresh snow covering much of the state during the first week in December.

And if that’s not enough, darkhouse spearfishing opened Dec. 1, though that is just a date on the calendar because many lakes didn’t even have ice then, and even with the recent cold wave it will take some time for thick enough ice to form.

Whenever that occurs, always be cautious on first ice. Drill test holes as you make your way out onto a lake, and use a chisel to check ice thickness while moving around.

The following minimums are recommended by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions: four inches for a group walking single file, six inches for a snowmobile or ATV, eight to 12 inches for an automobile and 12 to 15 inches for a pickup or truck.

Early in the winter, it’s a good idea to double these figures, just to be safe. You can never be too cautious when it comes to travel on ice.


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