Doug Leier, Published November 26 2013
Leier: There's still plenty of hunting left to do
As North Dakota’s popular deer gun hunting season opens and closes, thousands of hunters begin and end their hunting activities within the 16½ days the regular season takes place.
While most of the good duck, pheasant, goose and dove hunting occurs before the deer season, the back side of November doesn’t have to be a letdown or a disappointment to hunters. In fact, opportunities abound even with the close of deer season.
While the majority of pheasant hunters point toward late October and early November as their preferred time frame for chasing roosters, a couple factors would give good reason to keep the shotgun handy deep into December.
First of all, when the opening high of the first few weeks of the season wanes, congestion of hunters 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 get very edgy, the point is, pheasant season in North Dakota runs through Jan. 5, 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, but getting on top of birds late in the season can be a challenge.
One last note on upland game: Many national wildlife refuges open 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 pheasant and sharp-tailed grouse.
Another all-too-often overlooked fall hunt involves turkeys. The fall turkey season extends until Jan. 5. While all the licenses are issued, if you’ve got one, remember, there’s plenty of season remaining.
And don’t forget late-season Canada goose hunting. Provided that weather conditions haven’t significantly worsened, December goose hunting provides one last crack at giant Canada geese. Though cold, wind and snow can pose a significant obstacle, many hunters relish this opportunity.
Finally, the end of the regular deer gun season is not the end of deer hunting. Archery season extends to Jan. 5, and the muzzleloader season runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 15.
Late November and early December don’t have to be down times for hunters or others wishing to spend a few more days outside.
And if that’s not enough, darkhouse spearfishing opens Dec. 1. In many years, Dec. 1 is just a date on the calendar, because lakes aren’t safe for even walking travel until well into the month, but temperatures so far this year are such that ice fishing and darkhouse spearing may get off to an early start.
With all the great fishing opportunities in North Dakota, an extra few weeks of ice fishing is a good thing. Just be cautious early on.
Anglers should drill test holes as you make your way out on the lake, and use a chisel to check ice thickness while moving around.
The following minimums are recommended for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions: 4 inches for a group walking single file; 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle; 8 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.
Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leier’s blog can be found online