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Associated Press, Published September 23 2011

Large duck flight expected in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Hunters can expect abundant ducks when North Dakota's early waterfowl season opens Saturday, but they might have to do more scouting to find them, wildlife officials say.

The early season for ducks, geese, coots and mergansers is only for state residents. Nonresidents can begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota on Oct. 1.

The Game and Fish Department's annual summer survey found duck broods down 26 percent from last year but 19 percent above the long-term average.

"This year's production was down from last year; however, there are strong indications of an exceptional late hatch of ducks this year," said Mike Johnson, leader of the agency's game management section. "Since our surveys have been completed, observers have been seeing large numbers of newly hatched ducks throughout the state."

Game and Fish migratory game bird biologist Mike Szymanski said hunters will need to scout because birds might be spread out due to abundant water in the state, especially in the northwest. A survey this month in that region found the number of wetlands holding water had nearly tripled over the year. Scarce lodging and busy roads in that region due to the oil boom also might hamper hunters.

"As always, the quality of the waterfowl hunting season in North Dakota is predicated on weather conditions," Szymanksi said. "But strong reproduction for both ducks and geese, and excellent wetland conditions, point toward a good fall."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.