By Doug Leier
For many deer hunters the application is automatic. You’ve put in for the same unit, same first tag option forever and don’t plan to change.
Others may look to different units with better odds, opting for a doe tag in a unit with less competition and opportunity to secure deer sausage for the freezer and back straps for the grill.
In between are the variety of hunter preferences, choices and decisions, which paint the picture of deer hunting in North Dakota.
Take for example last fall when opening weekend ushered in wind, snow and storms that impacted travel, hunting and success. Some hunters will choose to hunt only on the opening weekend. Others may delay hunting to reduce the congestion and competition in the field. If you were the latter, there’s a chance you didn’t or couldn’t make it back to your hunting unit.
Some hunters may fill a tag at first chance minutes into the season. Statistically a successful hunt. A hunter who waits until the final day and passes up a smaller buck or doe may be happy with their season, but the tag wasn’t filled and statistically the season is unsuccessful.
2022 North Dakota Deer Season Statistics
Last year, 47,590 North Dakota deer hunters took approximately 25,093 deer during the 2022 deer gun hunting season, according to a post-season survey conducted by the state Game and Fish Department.
Game and Fish made available 64,200 deer gun licenses last year. Overall hunter success was 53%, with each hunter spending an average of 4.4 days in the field.
“The lower success was due, in part, to deteriorating weather conditions during the beginning of the season,” said Casey Anderson, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “We were met with high winds immediately followed by blizzard conditions, producing measurable snow amounts and below normal temperatures for most of the season.”
Hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer was 43% and 40% for antlerless whitetails.
Mule deer buck success was 64% and 70% for antlerless mule deer.
Hunters with any-antlered or any-antlerless licenses generally harvest white-tailed deer, as these licenses are predominantly in units with mostly whitetails. Buck hunters had a success rate of 54%, while doe hunters had a success rate of 56%.
Game and Fish issued 10,822 gratis licenses in 2022, and 8,301 hunters harvested 3,578 deer, for a success rate of 43%.
A total of 27,720 archery licenses (24,414 resident and 3,306 nonresident) were issued in 2022. In total, 22,985 bowhunters harvested 7,780 deer (6,491 whitetails and 1,289 mule deer), for a success rate of 34%.
2023 North Dakota Deer Season
North Dakota’s 2023 deer season is set, with 53,400 licenses available to hunters, down 10,800 from last year. Applicants for regular deer gun, gratis, youth and muzzleloader can apply online through the Game and Fish Department’s website at gf.nd.gov. The deadline is June 7.
North Dakota’s 2023 deer gun season opens Nov. 10 at noon and continues through Nov. 26.
Leier is an Outreach Biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.
Featured Photo: Game and Fish employees monitor deer population indices to determine license numbers, and consider depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff. NDG&F Photo.