Doug Leier: Why Deer Tags Are Down In North Dakota

The late Dean Hildebrand, North Dakota Game and Fish Department director from 1996 through 2005, had a number of quotes that typically connected his small town North Dakota roots to the management of hunting, fishing and conservation in North Dakota.

One of those that is appropriate now, since details of the 2015 deer gun, archery and muzzleloader seasons are now official, went something like this:

“There’s three things every guy in North Dakota thinks he can do. Coach the high school (football or basketball) team better, run the local cafe and manage the deer herd.”

I’ve been thinking of that line often the past couple of weeks as I’ve heard an array of ideas on North Dakota deer and deer hunting.

It’s certainly not surprising that hunters are talking about deer, as the number of licenses allocated for this fall is the lowest since 1978. But it’s also not surprising that deer numbers are much lower than the peak population in the mid-2000s, considering we’ve had several severe winters since 2009, and a significant loss of habitat on the landscape throughout much of the state.

This year’s deer season is designed to get the population, particularly for whitetails, headed back in a positive direction. Game and Fish has allowed for 43,275 total licenses, 4,725 fewer than last year.

The number of any-antlerless licenses is down 2,650 from last year, and the number of any-antlered or buck licenses is down 1,150. Those two license types make up the majority of the reduction, while antlerless whitetail is also down 800, and antlered whitetail licenses are down 650.

On the positive side the mule deer population in the badlands has increased for the third consecutive year, with 2015 numbers showing the spring mule deer index is up 24 percent from last year.

As such, Game and Fish is allocating 1,875 licenses for antlered mule deer in 2015, an increase of 525 from last year.

However, as was the case the past four years, no antlerless mule deer licenses are available in units 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F. This applies to regular gun, resident and nonresident any-deer bow, gratis and youth licenses.

In addition, the 2015 deer proclamation allows for 828 muzzleloader licenses, down 104 from last year; and 187 restricted youth antlered mule deer licenses, an increase of 53 from last year.

State law requires residents age 18 or older to prove residency on the application by submitting a valid North Dakota driver’s license number or a North Dakota nondriver photo identification number. Applications cannot be processed without this information.

Last year was the first year this information was part of the big game applications, and processing of paper applications was slowed considerably because of the number of people who did not include this information the first time around.

So, a reminder: If you’re filling out a paper applications, remember to include the driver’s license or photo ID number. Better yet, apply online at the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, where you’ll be prompted to fill in the number before the application is accepted.

Also remember that gratis applications now have to be received on or before the regular deer gun lottery application deadline if qualifying applicants want to receive a license for any legal deer. As per state law, gratis applications received after the deadline can only be issued licenses based those remaining after the lottery, which are generally only antlerless licenses.

North Dakota’s 2015 deer gun season opens Nov. 6 at noon and continues through Nov. 22. The deadline for applying is June 3.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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