2015 Deer Hunting Success Rates in North Dakota

April 13, 2016 by  

The spring round of North Dakota Game and Fish Department Advisory Board meetings wrapped up over the last couple of weeks. As usual, the dominant conversations were about deer.

The fall round of advisory meetings occurs during the two or three weeks right after deer gun season ends, so it’s logical that deer are the dominant topic.

Mule Deer Success

Last fall, 39,470 North Dakota deer hunters took approximately 26,700 deer during the 2015 hunting season. (Photo courtesy NDGF)

You might think that fishing topics would hold court in spring, but when you dig into it a bit, there is a lot going on in North Dakota this time of year that relates to deer.

One obvious question in spring relates to how well deer survived the winter. And inevitably, the next question is whether that assessment of winter survival will mean more or fewer licenses.

That’s a fair question as most hunters know that Game and Fish develops its annual deer proclamation in April, with final license numbers established in late April or early May. Shortly after the governor signs the proclamation, the application period begins.

One of the important ingredients for determining this year’s license numbers is last year’s deer hunter success rates. Those numbers came out just before the advisory board meetings, to add to the deer discussions.

Last fall, 39,470 North Dakota deer hunters took approximately 26,700 deer during the 2015 hunting season.

Overall hunter success was 68 percent, with each hunter spending an average of 4.3 days in the field. It’s important to remember not every hunter who draws a tag may hunt, and some hunters may choose to pass on a doe or wait for the last hour of the last day for a chance at what they consider a trophy.

Whether it’s a personal choice to pass on a certain deer, or a simple missed shot, 2015 hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer came in at 70 percent, and antlerless whitetail was 64 percent.

Mule deer buck success was 86 percent. Game and Fish did not issue any mule deer doe licenses in 2015.

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 75 percent, while doe hunters had a success rate of 67 percent.

Game and Fish issues 826 muzzleloader licenses in 2015, and 745 hunters that participated harvested 348 white-tailed deer (194 antlered, 154 antlerless). Hunter success was 47 percent, with each hunter spending an average of 5.9 days in the field.

A record 25,703 archery licenses (23,710 resident, 1,993 nonresident) were issued in 2015. In total, 21,680 bow hunters harvested 7,527 deer (6,777 whitetails, 750 mule deer), for a success rate of 35 percent. Archers spent an average of 10.7 days afield.

In addition, 4,004 youth licenses were issued in 2015. During the youth season, 3,487 hunters harvested 1,832 deer (393 bucks, 1,439 does). Hunter success was 52 percent, and each hunter spent an average of 2.9 days in the field.

There’s plenty of numbers to chew on as you spend time turkey hunting, fishing and enjoying spring 2016. When it comes to deer and deer hunting, and there’s always something to talk about no matter the time of year or season.


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