Doug Leier: Deer population in better shape
While North Dakota's 2018 deer gun season continues through Nov. 25, it still generates a fair amount of questions and conversation preseason, midseason and postseason.
First off, this year's deer hunting season did open later than what a lot of people think is normal. The traditional deer opener for more than three decades has been the Friday before Nov. 11. That means the range for the deer opener, based on this rotating standardized approach, is Nov. 4-10.
For 2018, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department made available 55,150 deer gun licenses to hunters. While this is a long ways from the more than 100,000 licenses made available from 2001 through 2011, it is a step in the right direction.
"The good news is that we are in better shape than we were two years ago, but in terms of the state's deer population and license numbers, we're still lower than where hunters would like to be," said Jeb Williams, Game and Fish Department wildlife division chief.
Three years ago, in 2015, the Department made available just 43,275 deer gun licenses, the lowest since 1980.
For a six-season stretch beginning in 2004, when Game and Fish made available more than 145,000 deer licenses, habitat conditions on the landscape were outstanding, at the same time that the state benefitted from more than a decade of moderate to mild winters, which is unusual for North Dakota.
"While we hope to see changes in habitat and conservation programs to help influence and increase deer and other wildlife populations, it's very unlikely we'll see deer numbers like we did in the early to mid-2000s," Williams said. "If North Dakota's deer population continues to increase, the landscape, in large part, will dictate where the deer numbers end up."
In 2017 state lawmakers passed a bill that allows resident hunters to purchase a bonus point for a fee that is the same as the respective license. This option was effective for the 2018 deer application process.
Basically, what this means is that if for some reason you do not want to have any potential for drawing a lottery license, but still want to earn a bonus point, you can pay in the $30 fee and receive that bonus point, the same as you would if you had applied and been unsuccessful.
The fee is allocated to the Game and Fish Department's popular walk-in access program, Private Land Open To Sportsmen. This option is also available to hunters applying for pronghorn licenses and spring and fall turkey licenses.