BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota will issue more fall deer hunting licenses for a second straight year, though only a fraction of the record-high number it issued in 2008, which preceded seven straight years of decline.
The 54,500 licenses approved by the Game and Fish Department are 11 percent more than last year and 26 percent more than the recent low of 43,275 in 2015. The rise corresponds with the rebounding of the state’s deer population from several harsh winters and a recent oil boom.
“The number of years of being very conservative with deer licenses, we feel that has paid some dividends,” state Wildlife Chief Jeb Williams said.
Recent mild winters, including the last one, also have helped. Parts of North Dakota had a rough December, but the weather improved the rest of last winter and “that really saved a lot of deer,” Williams said.
The number of licenses this year is still only about one-third of the record 149,400 licenses that were issued in 2008, and it’s unlikely that licenses in excess of 100,000 will be reached again as long as grassland that once provided prime habitat for white-tailed deer remains farmland, especially in eastern North Dakota.
“We’re adjusting expectations as far as what the landscape can hold now (for deer) compared to what it could hold 10 years ago,” Williams said.
Mule deer habitat in the western Badlands has improved in recent years, thanks in part to the Mule Deer Foundation working with private landowners and state outdoors programs. Game and Fish is lifting nearly all restrictions on the hunting of mule deer females after a fifth straight year of significant gains in deer numbers.
Hunting of mule deer does was banned for four straight seasons beginning in 2012. Last year, it was allowed in five of eight western hunting units. This year, doe hunting will be allowed in all but one unit, in the Watford City area.
North Dakota’s 2017 deer gun season opens at noon on Nov. 10 and runs through Nov. 26. The deadline to apply for a license is June 7.
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