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North Dakota Evaluates 2008 Deer Gun Season

From the North Dakota Game and Fish Department

-- North Dakota deer hunters took more than 91,000 deer during the 2008 deer gun hunting season, a 7 percent decline from the 98,000 harvested in 2007, according to statistics released by the state Game and Fish Department.

The Game and Fish Department allocated 149,400 deer gun licenses in 2008, and more than 96 percent were issued to hunters. Overall hunter success was 70 percent.

Hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer was 79 percent, and antlerless whitetail was 77 percent. Mule deer buck success was 72 percent, while mule deer doe hunters had a success rate of 83 percent. Hunters with any-antlered licenses had a success rate of 68 percent, while any-antlerless license holders had a success rate of 70 percent.

Heavy snow covered much of the state opening weekend, with the heaviest band extending from southwestern North Dakota through the Devils Lake region. Despite 10 inches of snow in Mott and 15 in Velva, hunting success in Unit 3E1 was 82 percent, and overall success in Unit 3A4 was 77 percent. 

However, hunter success was down from previous years throughout the Red River Valley and much of the Sheyenne and James river systems. Bill Jensen, big game biologist, said the success rate was 60 percent in Unit 2A and 51 percent in Unit 2B.

A seven-day September antlerless deer season in northeastern North Dakota (Units 2C and 2D) was implemented early enough to ensure mild weather conditions. The objective was to give hunters an additional opportunity to reduce the deer population in the northeast. “We believe it was successful as 23 percent of the hunters with antlerless licenses in the two units participated,” Jensen said, while mentioning that approximately 690 does, or about 10 percent of the total doe harvest in the two units, were harvested in the seven-day season.

By January, significant snow cover in much of the state allowed the Game and Fish Department to conduct a statewide winter aerial deer survey for the first time in more than a decade. Aerial surveys showed stable to increasing deer numbers in the north central, southwestern and southeastern (except for Unit 2G1) portions of the state. Results in the northeast were mixed, with deer numbers in Unit 2C stable to decreasing, 2D stable to increasing and 2E declining.

Concerns over how the severe winter affected the population prompted a second survey of some areas in March. The follow-up survey in central North Dakota showed a 10 percent decline from January in Units 2K1 and 2K2, and a 35 percent decrease in 2J1 and 2J2.

Department biologists are in the process of determining recommendations for deer licenses in the 2009 deer proclamation, which will be sent to the governor’s office for approval in late April.

Deer license numbers are determined by evaluating hunter harvest and deer survey data, deer-vehicle collision reports, depredation reports, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff.

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