With most 2015-16 hunting seasons now in the books, many of us already are making plans for next season, whether it’s scheduling vacation or simply marking a date on a calendar to make sure to NOT schedule anything else for that time.
To help hunters get started on those long-range plans, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department annually provides a listing of tentative opening dates and application deadlines for the coming year.
I say “tentative” because all state hunting seasons are set by governor’s proclamation, and the dates aren’t official until those proclamations are signed, which is usually several weeks before a season is scheduled to open, or a lottery license application period is established.
For instance, the spring turkey proclamation will be signed soon, if it isn’t already, setting up an application period that ends Feb. 10, while the season doesn’t open until April 9.
Over time, the Game and Fish Department has tried to maintain a consistency with major season openers, so you wouldn’t have, say, a grouse season opening Sept. 8 one year and Oct. 8 the next. The standardized opening date for sharp-tailed grouse season is the second Saturday in September, which can range from Sept. 8 through Sept. 14, depending on where that Saturday falls on the calendar.
There isn’t any law that requires the grouse season to open during that range, but it’s something Game and Fish probably wouldn’t recommend changing without solid reasoning.
That is particularly the case once the tentative season openers are announced. These dates are published in the December calendar issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine, the official publication of the state Game and Fish Department. The dates also are published in other forums, so at this stage, it’s not likely any listed opener would change unless there is some sort of biological catastrophe.
So, if you have family or friends who want to come back to North Dakota when nonresidents are eligible to hunt on Game and Fish-managed public lands such as wildlife management areas or Private Land Open to Sportsmen tracts—which is not allowed the first week of pheasant season—you’ll want to know pheasant season is scheduled to open Oct. 8.
If you’re a first-time youth deer hunter eagerly awaiting when you can take what you learned in hunter education class into the field, you can mark Sept. 16 on your calendar.
Below is the listing of tentative opening dates for many other seasons in 2016:
• Spring light goose: Feb. 20.
• Spring turkey: April 9.
• Dove: Sept. 1.
• Deer and pronghorn bow, mountain lion: Sept. 2.
• Sharptail, Hun, ruffed grouse, squirrel: Sept. 10.
• Youth deer: Sept. 16.
• Youth waterfowl: Sept. 17.
• Early resident waterfowl: Sept. 24.
• Regular waterfowl, youth pheasant: Oct. 1.
• Pronghorn gun: Oct. 7.
• Pheasant, fall turkey: Oct. 8.
• Mink, muskrat, weasel trapping: Oct. 22.
• Deer gun: Nov. 4.
• Deer muzzleloader: Nov. 25.
I’ve always encouraged hunters and anglers to live in the moment and enjoy what we have right here and right now. There’s plenty of outdoor recreation and opportunity right now, but if you’re eager for a sign, the seasons change faster than we accurately can predict.
The 2016 spring snow goose season likely will technically open in mid-February, but if you cancel a planned trip ice fishing so as not to miss the opening day of spring snow goose season, you’ll likely be sadly disappointed, as there’s little chance the birds will be near the North Dakota border by then.
So, until the geese do arrive, enjoy the predator hunting, ice fishing, jerky and sausage. Hopefully, there’ll be more to make and enjoy, but there’s plenty of time to find out.