Public Hunting Land in North Dakota

January 27, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Thousands of signs are needed to properly identify public hunting opportunities

Thousands of signs are needed to properly identify public hunting opportunities

For most of us, the road traveled matters little once we’ve arrived at our destination. Seldom do we realize – or appreciate – while beginning a pheasant hunt across the prairie, the time and energy it took to provide access to a public hunting spot.

When you get to spend a few hours hunting a tract of public land, little evidence exists of the work hours needed to correct a boundary fence, or place new signs near a tucked-in-the-woods wildlife management area, save for a few tire tracks or matted down grass.

A visit to a WMA, Private Land Open To Sportsmen tract or other North Dakota Game and Fish Department managed lands depends on proper signs, and an accompanying map, to assure that where you’re at, matches where you intended to be.

Without a map, new areas are discovered only by random chance. Without proper signs, you could inadvertently wind up on private land where you don’t have permission. Realize this: During the summer Game and Fish crews have built miles of fence, pounded in and posted thousand of signs, and translated all that into maps that will help us get there when hunting seasons open.


Maintaining fences, signs and parking areas is an essential but often overlooked part of land management. Fences define boundaries, and with nearly 190,000 acres on 175 WMAs in North Dakota, keeping them in good shape is no easy task. While Game and Fish doesn’t have to fence the privately owner PLOTS acres, with 800,000 acres in the program, maintaining old signs and erecting new ones is an even bigger chore than fixing fence.

Parking areas are another overlooked feature, but without them, hunters would have to park on the side of the roadway, which could present a traffic hazard, even on seldom traveled country roads.

Department employees maintain boundary fencing needed to keep hunters orientated to their location

Department employees maintain boundary fencing needed to keep hunters orientated to their location

Just getting to all the WMA and PLOTS locations – found in all corners of the state and places in between – is a challenge. Travel, even from the Game and Fish Department’s six field offices, can be a couple of hours or more one way. “It’s a unique and enjoyable challenge,” says Scott Peterson, Game and Fish lands and development section supervisor at the Department’s district office at Lonetree WMA near Harvey in Wells County. “We maintain several hundred miles of fence each year. We’ll replace old fence and construct about 15 miles of new fence each year. The landscape we’re working on can be just about anything, from rugged hills and outcroppings in the Killdeer Mountains to aspen forests in the Turtle Mountains to lowland timber along the Missouri River.”

At times, just transporting equipment into a work site means hauling fencing tools and supplies miles across steep terrain during the heat of the day. Then the work of pounding fence posts for hours is made even more challenging thanks to mosquitoes, ticks, undocumented sink holes, rattlesnakes and other nuisances.

And it’s not just fencing and posting boundary signs, Peterson adds: “As with any landowner in North Dakota, weed control is a big part of land management. Our budget includes about $250,000 on noxious weed control. That’s what it takes to certify our employees as pesticide applicators and treat almost 12,000 acres of weeds each year. Factor in biological control of leafy spurge with beetles, some mowing of weeds, and it’s a big part of the equation.”

Differing regions and specific habitat goals require an array of land management practices. Controlled burns are needed to generate specific responses from preferred grass, Peterson said.

For many hunters, preparation begins the night before, or even on the morning of a hunt. For those tasked with providing public hunting opportunities, the preparation is year round.

This fall, when you’re having a sandwich in the parking lot of a WMA, or admiring a rooster bagged on a PLOTS tract, take a minute to appreciate these parcels of land and the work goes into them. And please leave them in better shape than when you arrived.

If you notice something out of order, take a minute to jot down the problem and location. When you return home, take a minute and let someone at Game and Fish know.

Above all, enjoy the fruits of all that summer labor has provided this autumn.


24 Comments on "Public Hunting Land in North Dakota"

  1. Robert Brown on Sat, 8th May 2010 9:27 pm 


    I live in Wis. and am interested in bow hunting for deer on public hunting land in n.e. North Dakota. Also, can you tell me what an out of state liscense costs? Can you send me map areas of public land in that area? Thank you so much.
    Robert Brown
    438 Henry St.
    Mukwonago, Wi. 53149
    P.S. Or can you tell me where I can obtain this information?

  2. admin on Sun, 9th May 2010 6:53 am 

    Check out:

  3. Robert Brown on Tue, 11th May 2010 6:01 pm 

    I’m sorry. I sent you a wrong email address. Interested in public hunting land in N.E. North Dakota. Also, central N.D.
    Any info available? Can you tell me where I can find this info if you don’t have it? Thank you so much.

    Robert Brown
    438 Henry St.
    Mukwonago, Wi.

  4. admin on Tue, 11th May 2010 10:12 pm 

    Contact the ND Game and Fish, they can get you a PLOTS guide.

  5. charles hunter on Tue, 18th May 2010 6:12 pm 

    Please send a PLOTS guide or a public hunting map
    of duck and goose areas. thanks

    12826 boxwood lane, Union Bridge, Md 21791


  6. Brian Dombrowski on Thu, 15th Jul 2010 1:56 pm 

    Can you please send me a map of public hunting land for ND-also send a PLOTS guide. I am a bow hunter from Wisconsin.

    Brian Dombrowski
    250 County Road O
    Hancock, WI 54943

  7. admin on Thu, 15th Jul 2010 2:03 pm 

    See this site:

  8. Darrell on Mon, 20th Sep 2010 6:45 am 

    can anyone tell where i can hunt deer here in north family and i moved here in may of this year and want to hunt.i live in fargo and have no clue where to go. thank you.

  9. admin on Mon, 20th Sep 2010 9:40 am 

    Did you apply for a tag? Every county in ND has deer – it’s like throwing a dart at the state map on choosing where to go.

  10. Rob on Thu, 7th Oct 2010 9:57 pm 

    If you can’t hunt for Pheasants if your non res. between oct. 9TH and oct. 15th on WMA and P.L.O.T.S which public land do you hunt.

  11. Maverick on Sat, 9th Oct 2010 8:29 am 

    4 to 6 of me and my friends travel every year from Cincinnati, OH and Indianapolis, IN to the North Dakota Plains and Pot Hole Hills to hunt waterfowl and highland birds. We absolutely LOVE this BIG country. You all live in heaven as far as we’re concerned.
    We don’t even mind if we don’t bag a limit. That just gives us an excuse to take a nap in the warm North Dakota sun on the wind swept prairies.
    After reading the above article, I just wanted the good folk of North Dakota to know that the rest of America really appreciates all their hard work and hospitality and efforts for allowing us to be blessed with such a beautiful piece of heaven still available to everyone.
    Thank You.

  12. admin on Mon, 11th Oct 2010 9:55 am 

    You hunt private land during that time, plenty available.

  13. Todd Simmons on Sun, 28th Nov 2010 12:26 pm 

    Good Afternoon,

    My family and I moved to the Bismarck, ND area from northern Minnesota this past September.

    I am interested in hunting deer and pheseant in ND and am wondering what is the best way to go about finding land to hunt on.

    Any tips?


  14. admin on Mon, 29th Nov 2010 12:52 pm 

    Drive around and knock on doors. You’ll find land to hunt.

    Here’s an article that will help too:

  15. chad mead on Fri, 22nd Apr 2011 6:36 am 

    my wife and i are thinking of moving to minot north dakota. i live now in pa and love archery hunting. i was wondering where is the closet area to hunt, and what big game is available in this area.

    thanks, chad

  16. admin on Fri, 22nd Apr 2011 8:40 am 

    All of North Dakota’s species are listed here:

    If you like to hunt and fish, you will love it here.

  17. chad mead on Fri, 22nd Apr 2011 9:55 am 

    what is the moose population like

  18. admin on Fri, 22nd Apr 2011 10:29 am 

    Not really that bad but you have to draw a tag.

  19. chad mead on Fri, 22nd Apr 2011 11:46 am 

    do the residents have to worry about tag drawing for all the big game animals. if so how hard is it too get draw for deer, moose, elk and antelope.


  20. Paul Fulk on Sun, 9th Oct 2011 11:26 pm 

    My wife and I are planning a trip next fall which will take us through N.D. We are wanting to hunt wild sharptails on public land. Does anyone know of a good area?

  21. Chase on Thu, 29th Dec 2011 8:02 am 

    I have never been to North Dakota my dad brother and I are looking to go bowhunting this fall..Looking for a good wooded peace of public land or any land in that nature with good deer…any suggestions would be great. looking around lake Sakakawea to hunt and set up a small camp. Thanks

  22. Chase on Thu, 29th Dec 2011 8:06 am 

    Also was wondering what the chances are to draw a deer gun tag vs drawing a bow tag. If a good chance of getting a gun Id rather do that instead for my first time. just wondering on chances of drawing a gun tag. thanks

  23. Joel Nelson on Sat, 4th Feb 2012 10:40 am 

    i and 3 or 4 others from Minnesota want to rifle hunt deer in ND. We’d like to hunt bucks, but will take does if that’s the only license we can get. can we get both whitetail and muley licenses? we prefer to camp and always leave the site as clean or cleaner than when we arrived. we don’t mind rough country, and prefer it if it means more deer and/or fewer hunters. What do you recommend?

  24. Leo Almeida on Wed, 6th Jun 2012 8:06 pm 

    With the Deer hunting licenses in reduction, why not close a season to non-resident hunters ? I just don’t think it’s right or fare that a North Dakota resident should have to go a season without hunting ,when a non-resident can come in and hunt. I know I count the days every year looking forward to opening day,and I “KNOW” I’m not alone. It’s always nice to be a host, but sometime, for some things,residents should be considered first. If an out of state Hunter has all that money to travel,and obtain a Non Resident license, He/she can afford to Hunt someplace else. I know this will probably upset out of state Hunters, but that’s not my intention. Keep the Home State Folks Happy first. Just my opinion. Good Luck to All North Dakotan s in the 2012 Deer Season. Hunt Safe & Hunt Smart.

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