North Dakota officials expect difficult duck hunting season


Bismarck, North Dakota (AP)-- Wildlife managers say predictions of a poor duck breeding season in North Dakota due to the drought have proven true, and hunters should expect challenging conditions this fall.

The number of duck broods, or families, observed during the state Game and Fish Department’s annual mid-July survey was the lowest in nearly three decades. This year’s fall duck flight is expected to be down 36% from last year, according to Mike Szymanski, the agency’s migratory game bird management supervisor.

“Hunters should take advantage of early migrants like blue-winged teal during the first two weeks of the season,” Szymanski said. “We won’t be able to depend on local duck production to the extent that we have in the past.”

The news was not unexpected, the Bismarck Tribune reported. More than half of North Dakota is in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories, while all of the state is in some form of drought. In past dry years some areas still remained wet, but “There’s nothing like that this year,” Szymanski said. “It’s all dry.”

The National Weather Service expects that drought will persist into the fall. Some areas of North Dakota have seen improvements, but rainfall continues to be hit-and-miss.

The regular duck season opens Sept. 25 for resident hunters and Oct. 2 for nonresidents. Szymanski said hunters should expect difficult conditions, though there will be localized concentrations of ducks, geese and swans as birds migrate south.

Resident waterfowl hunters spend an estimated $20 million in the state every year, according to state Tourism Division data.

This year’s breeding duck estimate, while being down dramatically from last year, was still 19% above the long-term average.

“One year of drought won’t be a disaster for ducks, but we could have issues if these conditions continue into next year,” Szymanski said.

Story via AP