Deer Management

February 19, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Big bucks are often the result of good deer management

Big bucks are often the result of good deer management

This time of year, I don’t need to look at the North Dakota Outdoors calendar on my wall to know that deer season is here. Any time during November, when I walk in the door at the local coffee shop, I quickly realize that while pheasant and waterfowl seasons draw thousands of hunters, in North Dakota deer hunting tops them both.

Let’s face it. Duck hunting in North Dakota is stellar and we’re often rightly referred to as the duck factory of North America, with the Prairie Pothole Region offering some of the better waterfowl hunting anywhere.

And over the course of the last decade or so the state has found new fame as far as roosters go. But with each of these pursuits there’s a little asterisk attached to the statement.

Duck hunting is great as a whole, but North Dakota’s southwestern corner probably wouldn’t be considered a duck hot bed. And when it comes to pheasants, you’ll be hard pressed to find top notch pheasant hunting in the northeastern portions of the state.

This leads me to the reality of deer hunting. Southwestern North Dakota has decent mule deer numbers and a nice mix of white-tailed deer, too. The remainder of the state is home to generally good populations of white-tailed deer. Which means if you want to hunt deer in North Dakota, it’s your choice if you’d like to travel near or far.

There are privileges to living in what we call deer country. First off, if you forgot to apply or want another antlerless deer license, there are thousands of licenses still available. Simply logon to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website at and you can apply for a remaining license. Don’t forget these licenses can be used in any open season with the corresponding legal firearm or bow.

What that means is you can use them during the archery season with a bow, during the muzzle-loader season with a muzzle-loader, or during the regular rifle season as well. One stipulation is that regardless of the season, these licenses are only valid in the unit described on the license.

While North Dakota has high deer numbers compared to historical levels, when you hear comments about “all the deer” that’s not the case everywhere. Realistically, in much of the eastern half of the state, white-tailed deer numbers are still above population objectives. In other areas, deer numbers are mostly at or even below management goals.
Even within regions with higher deer numbers, some units and counties, such as Richland County and unit 2A, have deer herds closer to management goals than surrounding units.

In areas where landowners, citizens and hunters are concerned that deer populations are high, the Game and Fish Department is still limited to providing licenses. To get a sufficient deer harvest, hunters must buy the licenses, and then be able to find places to hunt.

A great majority of the land in North Dakota is privately owned. The Game and Fish Department has always stressed the need for hunters to be considerate and respectful of landowners and their right to control access to their property. That’s a point on which we all agree.

Many landowners enjoy deer hunting themselves and they host friends and family. They like to wait to allow other hunters access until they’ve had a chance to fill their tags, or chase a buck they’ve watched as they worked the land throughout the year.

The bottom line is that hunters and landowners have a great history of working with the Department and managing deer and other wildlife populations. Hunters enjoy taking to the field to harvest the bounty and landowners understand that a good harvest is necessary to keep deer numbers at desired levels.

Game and Fish Department management objectives are designed to maintain deer populations that are high enough to support our current number of hunters, yet low enough that problems with deer depredation are minimized. The key word is “balance.”

Achieving that balance in many units requires that hunters use the licenses available, and landowners do what they can to provide access.

As deer season approaches, don’t forget to find your tag, and while you’re at it, if licenses remain in a unit in which you enjoy hunting, consider purchasing another.


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