Easing of drought good news for duck hunting in North Dakota
BISMARCK, N.D. — A reprieve from drought in North Dakota this summer is good not only for farmers but also duck hunters.
Duck broods in the state are up 37 percent from last year, according to a summer survey conducted by the state Game and Fish Department. That indicates hunters can expect more birds in the countryside when the waterfowl season opens for residents Sept. 22 and for nonresidents a week later.
The outlook wasn’t so bright last spring, when a department survey estimated the number of breeding ducks in the state was down 5 percent from 2017, due in large part to the deterioration of wetlands during last summer’s severe drought.
“But most of the state received abundant rainfall from late May through early July, which was encouraging for the summer survey,” said Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird supervisor for Game and Fish.
Data from the National Weather Service show rainfall in Bismarck was 9 percent above normal in June, and in Minot it was 25 percent higher.
The duck survey reflected that, showing “very good” duck production in the northern part of the state and “favorable” results in the south, according to Szymanski.
The amount of water available to ducks in the state is up 11 percent from 2017. Last summer, the amount was down 38 percent from the previous year, as smaller, seasonal wetlands dried up during the drought.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows just 2 percent of North Dakota in some stage of drought. That compares with 82 percent at the same time last year.
Game and Fish plans to assess wetland conditions next month ahead of the hunting season.
“Wetland conditions are still on the dry side, as the early summer rains slowed down quite a bit,” Szymanski said. “The larger basins are in pretty good shape, and even some of the local smaller basins that were dry this spring were filled from the earlier rainfall. But the small, shallow basins are beginning to show the effects and have the potential to dry up before the hunting season begins.”