Why Party Hunting is Illegal for Deer Hunting

February 19, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Deer hunter scouting the couteau

Deer hunter scouting the couteau

Party hunting is not legal in North Dakota. And I’m glad.

Legally, each individual hunter must take only his or her own daily limit, or fill his or her own deer tag.

The same concept also applies to fishing. There is no legal distinction between shooting someone else’s deer, and catching an extra fish to “help” your buddy fill out. Once a hunter or angler has reached the limit, he or she cannot legally shoot or catch anything that helps a partner reach their daily limit.

This issue, particularly as it relates to deer, still generates periodic interest, but the state legislature has voted down every recent opportunity to allow party hunting.

At advisory board meetings and other public forums, Game and Fish officials are routinely asked why North Dakota doesn’t allow party hunting.

A couple questions always rise to the surface.

1) With North Dakota’s high deer population, wouldn’t party hunting help increase overall success so more tags are filled?

2) Many groups have always party-hunted for deer; allowing it would just legalize something that has been going on for years. Why worry about something that is difficult to enforce anyway?

To answer the first question, in states like North Dakota where a limited and specific number of deer licenses are issued by unit, legalized party hunting would in the long run reduce a person’s chances for obtaining coveted licenses, such as those for whitetail bucks, mule deer bucks, or even muzzle-loader bucks.

The number of buck licenses in any unit is limited. If party hunting were allowed, then a person could find, say, three other people who are not that interested in buck hunting (the spouse, kids, neighbors), or even deer hunting, but would go along anyway. Then the one real deer hunter could legally shoot four bucks. The result could be that three serious and dedicated hunters would go without a buck license that year.

Lucky hunter dragging his prize muley

Lucky hunter dragging his prize muley

Such a situation would eventually increase the level of dissatisfaction over not being able to get a buck license on a more frequent basis, which is already a common complaint.

If party hunting were allowed in North Dakota, it would likely increase hunter success rates. Because Game and Fish manages deer on a unit basis, and issues specific licenses, the agency might have to reduce the overall number of licenses, especially buck licenses, to counter increased hunter success. This would mean fewer hunters would get buck licenses.

For example, assuming a 10 percent increase in hunter success, Game and Fish would have to decrease the number of buck licenses by 12.5 percent. This would have meant about 5,900 fewer buck licenses issued in 2005.

To address the second point, not everyone party hunts, or wants to. While the rule may be difficult to enforce, most people are honest and stay within the law. Plus, many hunters understand that “group limits” associated with party hunting are counter-productive to keeping young hunters interested.

One of the worst possible feelings for a young hunter is having to put his or her tag on a deer someone else shot. The party philosophy, whether it’s deer, birds or fish, and whether it’s legal or not, reduces opportunity for beginning hunters or anglers because they are usually not the most skilled.

Instead, the group should make it a priority to give young hunters and anglers as many chances as possible, and if they don’t get a limit … then they don’t get a limit.

North Dakota isn’t alone its approach to party hunting. Neither South Dakota nor Montana allow party hunting or fishing for any species. While it’s likely that debate about legalized party hunting will continue, here’s hoping that North Dakota’s strong tradition continues just the way it is.


2 Comments on "Why Party Hunting is Illegal for Deer Hunting"

  1. Michael on Tue, 1st Dec 2009 4:07 pm 

    I disagree in MN we always party hunt and it is a great team builder. One year a guy may get 3 and the party may struggle. The team gets to share the meat as you can’t drive them out of the woods alone. The deer work together and so do the people. Party hunting is a great way to manage the population and everyone wins.

  2. Roger Layton on Thu, 27th Jan 2011 11:28 pm 

    I am glad to learn that ND does not allow party Hunting. You are in a good location. There are 5 hunters. 2 have buck tags
    and 3 have doe tags. The 2 buck hunters get a buck and each take a doe to help out their doe friends. one doe hunter gets a buck which was all he saw. the other 2 get 2 does just to help out. Back at camp who gets the fine? Nobody is going to end my hunt for me. I count the minutes to openning day and hunt every available minute until sunset on the final day or my tag is filled by me. And yes what example does this set for young hunters. A good hunter would fill his tag and help
    his friends fill their tags sharing where and how he did it and then help them drag out their deer or have the meals fixed
    for those still hunting. We go hunting to hunt. The more we hunt the better we get.

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