DOUG LEIER: N.D. deer hunting success improves, but lags below average in 2012
The minute North Dakota's regular deer gun season closed last fall, hunters were assessing their season and looking forward to 2013. For some hunters, deer season is the only season. For others, planning next fall's hunt begins with scheduling va...
The minute North Dakota's regular deer gun season closed last fall, hunters were assessing their season and looking forward to 2013.
For some hunters, deer season is the only season. For others, planning next fall's hunt begins with scheduling vacation for the next opener, which this year is projected to start at noon Nov. 8.
Whether you're new to North Dakota or have been hunting deer across the state for decades, you'll realize there's no such thing as "just like last year," even if you've pretty much always opened the season with the same crew at the same time and place. It's a dynamic season, with habitat and weather influencing deer production and hunting conditions.
Last year, it was a combination of a lower deer population and an opening weekend snowstorm across much of the state that contributed to a kill of about 34,500 deer and overall hunter success of 63 percent. That success rate was up from about 51 percent in 2011.
Randy Kreil, North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife chief, said this past season's hunter success rate of 63 percent "is fairly good, but still below the long-term average of around 70 percent."
In addition, Kreil said the number of days spent hunting, at 4.4 days per hunter, was still higher than usual, which is expected with lower deer populations.
Hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer was 76 percent, and antlerless whitetail was 62 percent.
Mule deer buck success was 81 percent. No mule deer doe licenses were issued in 2012.
Hunters with any-antlered or any-antlerless licenses almost exclusively harvest white-tailed deer. These buck and doe hunters each had success rates of 64 percent.
Game and Fish biologists in late April were wrapping up the process of determining recommendations for licenses in the 2013 deer proclamation. Once that is completed, the proclamation goes to Gov. Jack Dalrymple for approval.
With the majority of deer survey work done before April and its extended winterlike conditions, it's the hope of biologists and hunters the impacts aren't too severe. The good news is, in many areas, the grassland and woodland habitat could benefit from spring precipitation.
The bottom line is your 2013 deer applications should be out by the middle of May. They will be due by June 5.
And one final note, while the deer license fee increase (from $20 to $30) recently passed by the Legislature will not be in place until 2014, provisions in another bill, HB1131, included an emergency clause and will be in effect for the 2013 application period.
• Youth who turn 14 years old in the same year as the respective big game hunting season may apply for a license, and kids who turn age 12 in the same year as the youth deer season may receive an antlerless white-tailed deer license for the youth deer season. Previously, young hunters had to turn age 14 or 12 before opening day of those respective seasons.
• The number of acres required to qualify for a big game gratis license was lowered from 160 to 150.
• Gratis applications received on or before the regular deer gun lottery application deadline will be issued a license for any legal deer, as has been the case for many years. However, gratis applications received after the deadline will be issued licenses based on what is remaining after the first lottery drawing, which very likely will be only doe licenses. Previously, gratis applicants could receive an "any deer" license at any time after the first lottery, as long as licenses were available anywhere in the state.
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.