For many waterfowl hunters September is a transition, kind of like waking up in the morning and taking your first few groggy steps searching for the light. It's the first cup of coffee of the hunting season, while October is a good share of the day.
September has waterfowl season openers and early goose opportunities, but it's still part summer.
October is fall and most everything except the deer gun season is open. Many consider it the best month of the year, and if you’re not ready, it could sneak right past you.
Fortunately, October means you haven't really missed out on anything ... yet. While a good share of the blue-winged teal have probably left the state, the options are still plentiful. Many resident Canada geese are still around, along with puddle ducks and a few divers to provide variety.
If the right weather systems fall into place, we’ll have good numbers of migrant Canada geese and snow geese moving in over the course of the next month, as well as ducks to replace the locals that eventually head south.
The 2010 waterfowl season in terms of regulations will look very similar to 2009, as hunters may take six ducks per day with the following restrictions: five mallards of which two may be hens, three wood ducks, two scaup, two redheads, two pintails (an increase of one from last year) and one canvasback.
For ducks, the possession limit is twice the daily limit. Most hunters don't have an extensive interest in mergansers but the daily limit of five mergansers may include no more than two hooded mergansers.
For geese the hunting season for Canada geese in the Missouri River zone will close Dec. 31, while the remainder of the state will close Dec. 23. The season for whitefronts closes Dec. 5, while the season on light geese is open through Dec. 31. Shooting hours for all geese are one-half hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. each day through Nov. 6. Beginning Nov. 7, shooting hours are extended until 2 p.m. each day.
Extended shooting hours for all geese are permitted from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset on Saturdays and Wednesdays through Nov. 28, and on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays from Dec. 1 through the end of each season.
The daily bag limit for Canada geese during the regular season is three, with six in possession. The daily limit on whitefronts is two with four in possession, and light goose is 20 daily, with no possession limit.
Nonresidents have the option of buying either a statewide waterfowl license, or one with zone restrictions. Nonresidents who designate zones 1 or 2 may hunt that zone for only one seven-day period during the season. Nonresident hunters who chose to hunt in zone 1 or 2 and wish to use the full 14 consecutive days allowed, must use the other seven days in zone 3. Hunters in zone 3 can hunt that zone the entire 14 days.
Nonresidents may not hunt on North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or conservation PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) areas from Oct. 9-15.
One last reminder, all migratory bird hunters, including waterfowl, must register with the Harvest Information Program prior to hunting. Those who HIP registered to hunt this spring's light goose season do not have to register again, as it is required only once per year.
While it's still early, don't let October slip on by. It only comes once a year, and Christmas is just around the corner.
Leier is a biologist with the Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org