North Dakota Big Game Hunting

March 24, 2015 by  

by Doug Leier


While it’s a long way from the nearest big game hunting season, the last month or so has had its fair share of North Dakota big game hunting news.

Harvest statistics for moose, elk and bighorn sheep came out in February, followed by 2015 moose and elk season details in early March, and the State Game and Fish Department just recently released 2014 deer season figures as well.

The most notable development amongst all that information is that for the first time in more than 30 years, North Dakota will not have a bighorn sheep hunting season this year. The state’s bighorn population suffered significant mortality last summer and fall due to an outbreak of bacterial pneumonia.

150318 moose-elk seasons

Last year, 249 hunters harvested 166 elk – 97 bulls and 69 cows/calves – for an overall success rate of 67 percent.

Many mature bighorn rams were among the animals that succumbed to the disease.

In addition, Game and Fish biologists estimate that perhaps 30 to 40 percent of the entire bighorn population north of Interstate 94 also died. Biologists will thoroughly survey the sheep population, as they do every summer, to determine what the future might hold for North Dakota bighorns.

There is better news relating to the 2015 moose and elk seasons. Both species will have increased license numbers from last year.

Game and Fish has allocated 301 elk licenses this year, an increase of 40. Unit E1 has an additional 15 any-elk and 15 antlerless licenses, and unit E3 has an increase of 10 antlerless licenses. In addition, the split season antlerless-elk-only portion of E1 is eliminated to provide additional hunting opportunity and address late-season depredation issues.

Last year, 249 hunters harvested 166 elk – 97 bulls and 69 cows/calves – for an overall success rate of 67 percent.

Game and Fish received 10,536 applications for 93 available any-elk licenses last year, so a bit less than 1 percent of the applicants were successful. On the other hand, 357 prospective hunters applied for 131 cow elk licenses, yielding a drawing success rate of almost 37 percent.

In addition to any-elk and cow elk licenses available in the general lottery, Game and Fish also issued 49 landowner preference licenses in 2014.

On the moose side, 131 licenses are available in 2015, an increase of 20. Units M9 and M10 have more licenses than last year due to high cow survival and calf recruitment. Hunting units M1C and M4 will remain closed due to a continued downward trend in moose numbers in the northeastern part of the state.

The department issued 110 moose licenses last year. Of that total, 106 hunters harvested 93 animals – 82 bulls and 11 cows/calves – for a hunter success rate of 88 percent. One additional license was raffled by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the hunter was successful in harvesting a moose.

More than 12,600 hunters applied for bull or any-moose licenses last year – with 96 issued – for a drawing success rate, again, of less than 1 percent. Also, 151 landowners applied for 14 landowner licenses, a success rate of about 9.3 percent.

All five bighorn sheep hunters harvested a bighorn ram last fall. Four of those licenses were issued via lottery drawing, with 9,860 applicants.

Elk and moose lottery licenses are issued as once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota. Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

The deadline for applying is March 25.

One other note: If you’re applying on a paper application, remember to fill in the blank for your North Dakota driver’s license number or North Dakota non-driver photo ID number.


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