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Early Season Pheasant Hunting Report: North Dakota

Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever Regional Wildlife Biologist in North Dakota, bagged an early season limit of roosters. Photo courtesy Jesse Beckers / Pheasants Forever

With a ringneck population up nearly 60 percent, according to summer surveys, expectations had been set for fast and furious early pheasant hunting action in North Dakota. Two weekends in, has the season lived up to the hype?

It would seem so. According to three Pheasants Forever biologists in North Dakota who have been out walking grasslands, pheasant numbers have been outstanding. Here’s a compilation of their reports:


The reports I’ve been hearing, even in southeast North Dakota, are that numbers are better than we expected. I know we had higher brood counts, but the number of hens and roosters flying is even higher than I’ve seen in a couple years. A lot of people I talk to in southeast North Dakota have been finding limits – working hard, but finding them. As for the southwest, it’s been incredible and the reports are just wild out there. Anywhere south of I-94 is very good.

-          Jesse Beckers, Regional Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – Valley City, North Dakota


The weather cooperated and conditions were nearly perfect for the opening of pheasant season in North Dakota. I hunted both Saturday and Sunday in southeast North Dakota. Most all of the crops are off with the exception of some remaining corn fields. There was a group of 6 of us hunting along with a couple of dogs. We were able to bag 10 roosters each day. Most of the roosters were holding down in the bottoms of dried up sloughs.

-          Matthew Olson, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – Forman, North Dakota


It was warm, dry and windy for opening weekend in western North Dakota. We hunted private land Saturday morning in Hettinger County with 7 shooters and 2 dogs. Habitat targeted included a 100-acre CRP block adjacent to cattails and a 50ft wide, mile-long waterway with standing corn on each side. We had our limit of 21 roosters in about 4 hours with plenty of missed opportunities. There are lots of young birds and some crop fields are still standing, although most of the crops are out in the area. Sunday was productive also, this time hunting public land in Stark County with 2 shooters and 1 dog. Targeted habitat was again permanent grass adjacent to cattails with a few tree/shrub rows added into the mix. We saw our limit, but only 4 roosters were in shooting range. The hens are holding and the roosters are running. The birds are here, but getting them to fly within gun range can be a challenge.  

-          Matt Flintrop, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever – Dickinson, North Dakota


Have you been pheasant hunting in North Dakota this year? If so, post your own report in the comments section below.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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8 Responses to “Early Season Pheasant Hunting Report: North Dakota”

  1. ACE ZOLA says:

    My brother and I hunted Hettinger, Adams and Grants Counties this past week and unfortunately found every private parcel of ground POSTED. We hunted the same counties the past two years and much of the private ground was open to bird hunting, nothing was open last week. We, and everyone else had to hunt the PLOTS lands and with more hunters the Public Lands took a pounding. I saw more bird hunters in 1 afternoon last week than I did in the previous 2 years combined. Our harvest was down 70% from the previous two years although we did see a ton of birds driving around on the POSTED lands. Won’t go back unless something changes for 2013.

  2. Don Mei says:

    My friends and I are from CT and just got back from a week of hunting mostly private land about 10 miles north of Glen Ulen.

    Tree lines were most productive with creek beds or depressions in the ground coming in second.

    Of 7 days hunting, we limited out on Pheasants 3 days. Often we missed our limit because the birds flushed out of range or ran far ahead of the dogs. We hunted with a French Brittany, 2 shorthairs, 2 wirehairs, and 2 English setters. And one chunky, but enthusiastic English bred lab that made up for in enthusiasm what she lacked in speed. She did great on the tree lines.

    Our first day was AMAZING. We had our limit in 2 hours. There were 5 of us and we typically ran 2 dogs at a time. It was warm, but breezy. It was like an outdoor life TV show. Except that rather than needing 20 hours of hunting for a 1 hour show, you only needed 2 hours of hunting for a 1 hour show. It was fast and furious and just about made my head explode since it was the my first time ever hunting wild birds.

    I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I was with the trip. Its great to see so many birds, even if I can’t hunt them. I swear we’d see 30 roosters every day just on the side of the road eating.

    I can’t wait to get back there. Let the hoards go to SD. I’m going back to ND.


  3. Jamie Bradley says:

    The numbers this year were much better than last year, no real surprise, with all the positive factors over winter and through nesting time.
    We hunt mostly the public lands near the south shore of Lake Sakakawea (however you spell it), and we had the best opener ever for our group.
    With five guns and two dogs, we limited out on Saturday, and with one less hunter, again on Sunday. Monday was down a bit (we were all tired), and Tuesday most of the crowd left, after sleeping in. On Wednesday, my son (and his dog, a Wirehair to work with my GSP) arrived (he’d been in SLC for the opener, on business), and we dropped five roosters from 3 p.m. to sunset, despite the MAJOR wind and rain that HURT when it hit. Thursday was OK, Friday – Good (the night of our annual PF Banquet, and he won a shotgun!) and Saturday (a quick walk with one rooster taken) sent him home with a dozen in the cooler (yes, four days @ three birds/day, we were legal), and we were all happy with our successful start on the season. Total tally: the group dropped 48 birds, and lost only four that even the dogs could not find, or catch on the run. Of course we did a lot of “shoot-and-release” with obviously “dead” birds fleeing without a feather disturbed, but that’s why it’s called “Hunting” and not “Shopping.” A great time afield.

  4. Paul Sikora says:

    I hunted pheasants in northwest North Dakota twenty miles south of Crosby the opening weekend. I was with four other hunters and we hunted Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We all shot our limits for these two days. The best part of the trip, was my GSP, Izzy, finally started retrieving to hand. Izzy’s pointing was fantastic with about 70% of her points on birds.

  5. Amanda N says:

    Every year we go hunting around Regent, ND, and this year was the best yet! There are a fairly good sized group of us that go every year. Opening weekend we had 10 hunters in our group with 5 dogs, same goes for the 2nd weekend, and during the week in between there was 3-7 of us hunting with 3-5 dogs. 2 English setters, 3 labs/lab crosses.

    We only hunt on public land, granted there is a lot of posted land in the area, but there are still great public places to go hunting. After 7 days of hunting we ended with 168 birds. (We all made a trip home in the middle of the week so we were legal and not over our possession limit.) We typically had our limit after 3 hours of hunting on the days we went out. There was only one day where we did not get our limit and that was the last day when we only went out for an hour in the morning before having to pack up and head home.

    It was such a great year we might have to make a second trip out west this month to get in some more hunting this year, if not I cannot wait til next year!

  6. Greg says:

    We went to Oakes which is in the southeast corner of North Dakota (Dickey County). Finding birds was tough and it is a bit difficult to find land that is not posted. We still had a good time and found a enough birds to give our dog some work and keep us interested. There is land available to hunt in the PLOTS program, but most of it did not seem to hold many birds.

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