Great Late Season Upland Options Abound in ND

Doug Leier

By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.

For much of October, North Dakota weather was a little of this and a little of that. The fall migration of ducks and geese once again seemed to stay in the northern tier a little longer than hunters in the rest of North Dakota would’ve preferred. Smaller ponds froze up and then the wind blew.

None of this, really, could be called anything other than “the usual” for those of us who’ve endured sun burns during deer season one year and snow drifts the next. We take what we can get, when we can get it. Fortunately, it looks like this year will allow for some comfortable days afield as the last hunting seasons wind down

Which brings me to later-year rooster hunting. Some hunters who prefer less crowded fields, may in fact not hunt roosters all that much until after the close of deer season. Others view the close of deer season as a reason to get back out after pheasants, and still others keep going from beginning to end.

Working the odds on December pheasants

If you’ve never hunted roosters toward the end of the season, understand that these birds have been hunted for several weeks, and they’ll probably be a little jumpy compared to opening weekend. Because of that, some veteran hunters who prefer a 20 gauge earlier in the season commonly switch to a 12 gauge and use shells with larger pellets because of the perception that late-season shot ranges are longer than those typically encountered in October.

Whether shot ranges change all that much from early to late is a good topic for coffee shop conversation. What is true, however, is that larger shot sizes are better for taking pheasants cleanly during any part of the season.

Across the state, many national wildlife refuges are now open and available for limited upland game hunting including pheasants, grouse and partridge. They opened Nov. 27, after deer season and after most migratory waterfowl have left the state.

Each refuge has specific regulations, including open and closed areas. Don’t let the specific regulations deter you. Refuge employees are more than happy to explain regulations and might even offer a tip or two along the way.

To learn more about late season NWR hunting opportunities, contact your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office, or visit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at

And similar to a warm October hunt, you’d be well served to bring a cooler along, but this time of year you’ll want to keep the birds from freezing instead of cooling them down. If you’ll be field dressing the birds, be sure to leave proper identification as required by law.

Pheasant, grouse and partridge seasons are open through Jan. 7, 2018 so there’s still plenty of time to get out there and enjoy what the late season offers.

Leier is a biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email:

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