by Doug Leier

A couple of decades ago March was typically sort of a down time for outdoor activity in North Dakota, but that's no longer the case.

With fishing season for game fish now open year-round instead of closing around the first weekend in March, plus the advent of the spring light goose conservation season, there's more to do, and more licensing and regulation reminders to think about as we make the transition from winter to spring.

HIP for Light Geese

Up until March 31 your 2014 hunting license is good for the spring light goose season, but you still need a new Harvest Information Program registration number before you can hunt light geese once they enter the state.

Once you register, the HIP number remains valid for the fall as well, and all migratory game bird hunters, regardless of age, need free HIP certification to hunt ducks, geese, swans, mergansers, coots, cranes, snipe, doves or woodcock.

030515 spring snow geeseRegistration provides the Game and Fish Department with a database of names and addresses of migratory bird hunters, and a sample of these hunters will receive a questionnaire regarding hunting activity and number of birds harvested. Hunter compliance is essential in order to obtain reliable estimates of the annual harvest of all migratory game bird species.

Hunters who purchase a license through the department's electronic licensing system ( or instant licensing telephone number at 800-406-6409 can easily get HIP certified.

Otherwise, hunters can access the Game and Fish website, or call 888-634-4798 and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate. Hunters must register for a different HIP number in all states where they hunt migratory game birds.

Another reminder regarding spring light geese: starting April 1 you will need to purchase a 2015 hunting license, as the 2014 version expires March 31.

New Fishing License April 1

The 2014-15 fishing license also expires March 31, so starting April 1 you'll need a new one of those as well, whether you're finding some open water or extending the ice fishing season.

Fish Houses Off the Ice March 15

And if you're still chasing fish through a hole in the ice, March 15 is the last day that fish houses can remain on a lake over night. Starting March 15 you can still use fishing houses or shelters as long as you remove them when you leave the water.

The state's darkhouse spearfishing season also closes March 15.

Winter Boat Purchases

While it's not necessary an outdoor activity, anyone who bought a boat or other watercraft from a private individual over the winter needs to register it in their name with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

It's a fairly common oversight for a new owner to leave the previous owner's registration on the boat until it expires, and by then the initial record of transfer may be difficult to find.

Registering a used watercraft purchased from an individual must include proof of transfer of ownership, such as a photocopy of the previous owner's registration card, a canceled check or a signed note from the previous owner stating transfer of ownership.

Light Goose Migration Updates

And one last reminder, once light geese begin filtering back into the state, you can check migration progress through the Game and Fish Department website at, or call 701-328-3697 to hear recorded information 24 hours a day. Updates are provided periodically during the week as migration events occur, until the season ends or geese have left the state.