Doug Leier, Published November 12 2009
Leier: Even without buck tag, at least you can huntLast week’s discussion revolved around changing hunter attitudes for deer hunting in North Dakota, where many hunters now live in urban areas, and along with a healthy deer herd are now afforded what’s almost a sure thing for drawing a license.
Of course, the license may not always be for the type of deer or the exact unit you want, but if you want to hunt deer in North Dakota you can get a license. That wasn’t always the case.
Usually, the complaints about not getting a license come from hunters who didn’t get the buck tag they desired in the first lottery drawing. I can’t think of a unit in North Dakota where a first drawing antlerless deer application won’t produce an opportunity. If you want to make sure you get to hunt deer in the unit of your choice, put in for an antlerless license in the first lottery.
North Dakota Game and Fish Department big game biologist Bill Jensen conservatively estimates the state’s buck-to doe ratio at one buck to two or three adult does.
This is a good thing, because scientists figure that female deer are then getting bred at roughly the same time of year, thus optimizing reproductive potential and the promise of survival.
The 3- or 2-to-1 ratio hasn’t always been the case in North Dakota.
One of the reasons the Department went to a unitized deer hunting system in 1975 was that bucks in some parts of the state were getting overharvested. This meant that some does, because of a lack of suitors, weren’t getting bred in November, but as late as January.
“This late breeding resulted in the does having fawns not until August instead of June,” Jensen said.
Deer born as late as August go into the upcoming winter too small, reducing their odds of survival.
“The fawns that are born late are going to be the first ones coming into farms to feed in the winter and are going to be getting into trouble,” Jensen said.
Jensen said hunting does and young-of-the year deer is good, sound management. The promotion of doe hunting and an increase in doe licenses over the years is not a ploy by the Department to simply sell more deer licenses.
“I get exactly the same pay if we sell more licenses or not,” he said. “The money coming in from license sales doesn’t drive the system. We issue license to manage the deer population. Harvesting antlerless deer is probably the most important part of deer management.”
Jensen is a deer hunter who hunts doe. Having more than one antlerless license in his pocket allows him to spread out the season, he said.
“One of things that can be done to make doe hunting more challenging, if that is an issue for some hunters, is to do it with a muzzleloader, which I do,” he said.
When doe hunting, Department wildlife division chieff Randy Kreil said his goal is to try to shoot young-of-the year animals because they are easier to transport back to the vehicle, easier to cut up, and are good eating.
“Plus, young-of-the-year are the first to die in a tough winter,” Kreil said. “Someone has to shoot does, and it should be every serious deer hunter’s responsibility to harvest a doe every year.”
Contrary to chatter in coffee shops, shooting a doe doesn’t make you less of a hunter, Kreil said. Instead, it demonstrates that you are an informed and conscientious hunter who understands that hunting is a vital part of wildlife management and not just about trophies.
Don’t forget, doe licenses are still available in a number of units, and these are also valid during the muzzleloader season with a muzzleloader, and through the archery season with a bow, but they are only valid in the unit described on the license.
Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at email@example.com. Leier’s blog can be found online