In North Dakota, subpar 2017 hunter success could impact 2018 deer licenses
BISMARCK, N.D. — For the ninth consecutive year, the success rate of deer hunters in North Dakota in 2017 was below the 70 percent threshold that state wildlife officials consider a good season.
That could impact the number of licenses made available for this fall’s season.
About 49,400 hunters bagged about 30,100 deer during last fall’s season, making the overall success rate 61 percent. It was the second consecutive year of a decrease, from the recent high of 68 percent in 2015.
The last time the rate surpassed the 70 percent target was 2008, when it hit 71 percent, according to Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor for the state Game and Fish Department.
Hunter success rate is one of the factors Game and Fish considers when determining the number of deer licenses to issue, along with depredation reports, hunter observations, reports from the public and agency field staff, and winter aerial surveys.
“Having the overall statewide success rate at 61 percent, it sure identifies that we’ve still got hunting units below or well-below our management goal,” Stillings said.
A steady loss of habitat has cut into deer numbers and deer licenses in North Dakota in recent years. A record 149,400 licenses were issued in 2008, but just seven years later the number had dropped to 43,275. Game and Fish made 54,500 licenses available last year.
Officials are still determining how many licenses to issue this year.
“It very well may look like the number of licenses issued in 2017,” Stillings said. “It doesn’t jump out that there could be a great increase coming.”
The number of deer licenses is typically announced in early May. This year’s regular gun season is tentatively scheduled to begin at noon on Friday, Nov. 9.