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Doug Leier, Published April 23 2013

Leier: No two deer hunting seasons are exactly alike

Fargo - The minute the regular deer gun season closed last fall, hunters were already 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 Friday, Nov. 8 at noon.

Whether you are new to North Dakota or have been hunting deer across this great 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 over much of the state that contributed to a harvest of approximately 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 clip “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 a success rate 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 Governor’s Dalrymple for approval.

With the majority of deer survey work done prior to 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, HB 1131, included an emergency clause and will be in effect for the 2013 application period.

These include:

E The number of acres required to qualify for a big game gratis licenses was lowered from 160 to 150.

E 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 only be 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, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com