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Opening weekend

The white-tailed and mule deer season opening Friday for guns means that people will be hunting whenever possible through closing on Nov. 25.

There were 97 students absent from Jamestown High School Friday to go hunting, according to Kathy Getz, secretary. That is three times the number out for sports and illnesses, she said.

"A lot of kids told me that more than half the students in their classes were gone," Getz said.

The Game and Fish Department issued 55,150 licenses to hunters this season, which is 650 more than 2017, said Casey Anderson, assistant chief of the wildlife division at North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The deer counts are up a little in many areas of the state but some areas are not doing so great or didn't improve over last year

Stutsman County is right on the edge where the deer counts start to decrease east of the Red River Valley, he said.

"For the most part people who have a tag will have a good chance this year," Anderson said. "Stay safe and have fun while you're out in the field because it's going to be cold."

Anderson said this year's opening the deer will likely be moving more than they would to keep eating for energy to stay warm. Last year's opening weekend was warmer and the deer weren't moving as much, he said.

The cold weather also means that the hunters will be staying put and won't be moving as much, he said. When it's below freezing a hunter will think twice about walking a mile, he said.

"Some areas of the state have gotten a little snow and it sounds like Saturday there will be more snow in some areas," Anderson said.

The snow also adds more crunch to the steps when walking, he said. That makes it hard to get too close to deer without being heard, he said.

"It's a double-edge sword," Anderson said.

The landscape, habitat and the weather are all factors that affect deer movement and hunting, he said. There are a lot of coyotes but they shouldn't really impact the deer count this year, he said.

"For people who have the opportunity to take coyote the fur price is good like last year," Anderson said.

Logan Adams, a Jamestown hunter, said job obligations will prevent him from getting out opening weekend. The following weekend he plans to hunt the same area as last year northwest of Jamestown.

"I have just been hiking and trying to get myself into decent shape," Adams said. "At least I will get some good exercise walking around the county with my rifle."

Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism, said bird hunts bring in a lot of out-of-state hunters but deer hunting is different. With deer hunting it's all about finding land to hunt, he said.

"Hunting deer seems to be the pinnacle hunting experience and thus people are really protective of their land," Swedlund said.

There are a lot of no hunting and no trespassing signs going up in November that weren't there in August, he said. That means that landowners are deer hunters and limit the hunting parties to family and friends, he said.

Swedlund said he goes to Velva, N.D., near Minot to hunt. It's where he grew up and is where he still has the connections to hunting land, he said.

This year's hunt will be interesting with so much unharvested corn and soybeans still out there, Swedlund said. The deer can tolerate the cold right now and will take the high ground where there is still corn, but will move to lower ground where there is less protection but more food after the harvest, he said.

"It's all about access to food and shelter," Swedlund said. "My question this year is the unharvested soy and how that may shift the hunting patterns."