The Open Prairies Offer Tremendous Opportunity Each Fall
It’s been called the last best place for a free-lancing duck hunter. Spend a week in North Dakota during the peak migration and you’ll see why. It’s not just the astounding numbers of birds that descend upon cut cornfields or that roost on the thousands of pothole ponds and big reservoirs. It’s the wide-open spaces, the endless amount of land and abundant opportunities.
It’s true that the spectacular waterfowl hunting in North Dakota are no longer a secret. Thousands of non-residents descend on the state each fall. Don’t let that scare you away. It’s a big state with lots of birds. Even better, much of the private property is not posted. Per North Dakota law, you can hunt unposted land without permission. Even if land is posted, knocking on a door and asking can often get you the keys to the gate, as most landowners want to protect deer and pheasant hunting, or they just want to know who is on their land.
One way to beat the crowds is to go as late in the season as possible. The opening-week rush will be gone, and birds will be piling into cornfields to build up reserves for the next leg of their migration. How late depends on weather. A severe cold snap is possible in mid-November, locking up pothole ponds and even rivers. When that happens, birds will swarm what open water remains, usually the largest reservoirs. The other risk is snow. Ducks and geese will feed in corn as long as they can get to spilled grain.
There’s nothing wrong with an early-season trip. Ducks will be scattered across the landscape, feeding, loafing and roosting on ponds across eastern and central North Dakota. The only problem is that ducks might not have their full plumage yet. Determining the sex of the bird in flight might be a challenge. And brown ducks don’t make for great photos. That’s OK. The number of birds that pile into your decoys will make that seem irrelevant.