DOUG LEIER: Limited pronghorn season a welcome turn of events
I cross reference many significant outdoor dates with kids and sports. For whatever reason, my mind keeps sports milestones less convoluted than birthdays and anniversaries.
So, believe me when I tell you, the last time North Dakota hunters were offered a chance to draw a pronghorn license, my beloved Minnesota Twins were still in the Metrodome, and they made the playoffs.
While the Twins need a strong second half to move into playoff contention this year, the good news is that North Dakota will have a limited pronghorn hunting season this fall for the first time since 2009.
Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the season is open only in Unit 4-A, the far southwestern corner of the state. A total of 250 any-pronghorn licenses are available, and the season is split into an early “bow-only” portion, and a later gun/bow season.
The bow-only portion of the season is from noon Aug. 29 through Sept. 28. Anyone who draws a license can hunt pronghorn with a bow, only in Unit 4-A, during this period.
From noon Oct. 3 through Oct.19, hunters who still have a valid license can use legal firearms or bow equipment.
“We are opening the hunting season in Unit 4-A to take advantage of a surplus number of bucks in that area, and to provide hunting opportunity while still encouraging population growth,” Kreil said. “While we aren’t issuing any statewide pronghorn archery licenses this year as we did in the past, hunters who do draw a license can use a rifle, bow or both, depending on their preferences.”
In early July, Game and Fish biologists surveyed more than 11,000 square miles, 100 percent of the 21 survey units in the state. Statistics indicate a statewide population estimate of 5,700 pronghorn, with 1,650 in the area open to hunting.
“The number of pronghorn observed in Unit 4-A falls within our regional population objective of having a limited season, while all other units do not,” Kreil said.
In addition, Unit 4-A has a high buck-to-doe ratio, Kreil said, which is typical of a population that has not been hunted. The fawn-to-doe ratio is also the highest since 2007.
“While some people may have expected more units to be open, we need to proceed conservatively with this valuable wildlife resource and let pronghorns rebound to a level that can sustain harvest,” Kreil said. “The good news is that we are poised to see additional units open next year, providing nature cooperates with a moderate winter.”
Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply for a 2014 pronghorn license. Kreil said people who have accumulated preference points and choose not to apply this year will not lose their points.
In addition, state law allows youth who turn age 12 on or before Dec. 31, 2014, to apply for a license.
Online applications for regular and gratis licenses are now available on the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Paper applications also will be available from Game and Fish offices, county auditors and license vendors, or by calling (800) 406-6409.
The pronghorn license fee is $30, and the deadline for submitting applications is Aug. 6.
Here’s hoping the pronghorn continue to rebound, and that next year at this time, we have more units open — and the Twins are locked into a pennant race.
Leier is a biologist for N.D. Game and Fish Department. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at dougleier.areavoices.com.