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Associated Press, Published May 07 2012

Game and Fish reduces ND deer licenses

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department is making just 65,300 deer licenses available for the 2012 season, more than 40 percent less than last year and the fewest licenses in nearly a quarter century.

The reduction in licenses comes after the deer population statewide shrank during three straight harsh winters, from 2008 to 2010, Game and Fish wildlife chief Randy Kreil said Monday.

Unlike the past several years, hunters will not be able to receive more than one license for the deer gun season.

“It is expected there will be very few, if any, licenses remaining after the initial lottery,” Kreil said.

Deer licenses in North Dakota peaked at a record 149,400 in 2008. The 65,300 being made available this year is the lowest number since 1988.

A smaller deer population is evident in all parts of North Dakota, with all but two hunting units below management goals, Kreil said. The statewide hunter success rate last year was 52 percent, the lowest on record and well below the 70 to 75 percent success rate typically experienced by North Dakota deer hunters.

“The large decrease of licenses in 2012 is necessary to allow the deer population to grow toward management goals,” Kreil said.

Kevin Hartl, owner of Maple Valley Meats in Enderlin, said he expected fewer licenses to be issued, but with wild game processing accounting for about 20 percent of his business in southeast North Dakota, it still hurts.

“It’s huge for us,” he said. “We, like every other processing plant in the state, have experienced a decline over the past few years.”

Hartl, who also is a hunter, said he expects deer numbers to rebound.

“We had a mild, nice winter so we should have a good fawn crop,” he said. “It took three years of bad weather for the decline, so it will probably take three years of good weather to get the deer numbers back up.”

The deer gun season opens at noon Nov. 9 and continues through Nov. 25.

Online applications for the regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader, and resident gratis and nonresident landowner seasons will be available Wednesday through the Game and Fish Department’s website. Paper applications will be at vendors throughout the state starting next week.

The deadline for applying is June 6.