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The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is making 48,000 deer gun licenses available to hunters this fall, 11,500 fewer than last year.On the upside, the department is modestly increasing the number of mule deer buck tags it is offering. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)

DOUG LEIER: Deadline to apply for N.D. deer gun licenses approaches

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Yes, I know May is in the rear-view mirror, and for most people it’s the season for fishing, camping, boating and just soaking in the sights, sounds and warmth of spring.

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But for North Dakotans, it’s also the last week or so leading up to the 2014 deer license application deadline Wednesday.

So, while you’re enjoying the long overdue warmer weather, if you want to hunt deer with a rifle or muzzleloader this fall, don’t forget to get your application in by the deadline.

As with last year, this also applies to landowners who want an “any-legal-deer” gratis license. Landowners who do not submit a gratis license application by Wednesday’s deadline will only be eligible for licenses remaining after the regular lottery, which almost certainly will be limited to doe licenses.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is making 48,000 deer gun licenses available to hunters this fall — 11,500 fewer than last year and the lowest number since 1980.

The 2014 total includes 1,350 for antlered mule deer, an increase of 200 from last year; 932 for muzzleloader, down 270 from last year; and 134 restricted youth antlered mule deer, an increase of 19 from last year.

Game and Fish biologists determine deer license numbers based on prior-year harvest rates, aerial surveys, depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings and public, landowner and department field staff comments.

Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the Game and Fish Department, said even after five years of reducing gun licenses, deer populations are still below management objectives in most units, especially in the eastern part of the state.

The statewide hunter success rate in 2013 was 55 percent, which was lower than in 2012 (63 percent) and well below the department’s goal of 70 percent.

Game and Fish tries to conduct aerial deer population surveys in winter, but this year, despite the cold, the only part of the state that had enough snow cover for the survey was the northeast. Results there showed deer numbers were down 21 percent in unit 2C and 29 percent in unit 2D.

Statewide, Kreil said loss of high-quality deer habitat is an ongoing concern and likely will limit the potential for deer population recovery.

One positive note for 2014 is that the number of antlered mule deer licenses was increased modestly for the first time in years, based on an improved population index from the spring mule deer survey. However, as was the case the past two years, Game and Fish is again not issuing any antlerless mule deer licenses in units 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F. This restriction applies to regular gun, gratis and youth licenses.

In addition, resident and nonresident bow hunters are not allowed to harvest mule deer does in those units this fall.

Online applications for the regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader and resident gratis and nonresident landowner seasons are available through the Game and Fish Department’s website at gf.nd.gov. Paper applications are available at license vendors and Game and Fish offices.

A new state law requires residents age 18 or older to provide on the application a valid North Dakota driver’s license number or a North Dakota nondriver photo identification number. Applications will not be processed without this information.

North Dakota’s 2014 deer gun season opens at noon Nov. 7 and continues through Nov. 23.

Leier is a biologist for N.D. Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov. Read his blog at dougleier.areavoices.com.

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