BISMARCK, N.D. - The 2012 deer season has been set and will have the fewest licenses available since 1988.
Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said a total of 65,300 licenses will be available this year, 44,650 fewer than last year.
Two major changes for hunters this year will be no issuing of mule deer doe tags in the state’s Badlands units and no concurrent season.
“It is expected there will be very few, if any, licenses remaining after the initial lottery,” Kreil said. “Therefore, there is not a concurrent season this year.”
Hunters will be able to draw one license for the deer gun season, one for the muzzleloader season and purchase an archery license, unlike past years when they were able to receive more than one license for the deer gun season.
The state’s deer population is still rebounding from brutal winter conditions in 2008-10 that resulted in adult mortality and decreased births of fawns.
The numbers tell the story: In 2008, a record 149,400 deer licenses were available.
Hunter success last year bears out the low numbers — 52 percent in 2011, the lowest on record. The normal success rate for deer gun hunters is between 70 percent and 75 percent.
The decline of fawn births in the the Badlands units — 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F — was especially severe.
It was the lowest fawn birth rate observed between 2009-11. Survey numbers show mule deer in the Badlands are down 23 percent from last year and 52 percent below 2007.
The number of licenses available for 2012 is 1,200 for antlered mule deer, a decrease of 3,350 mule deer licenses from last year; 1,282 for muzzleloader, down 826 from last year; and 120 for restricted youth antlered mule deer, a decrease of 130 from last year.
Kreil said it can be assumed that white-tail fawn births also saw record lows during the same period, but surveying white-tail fawns is virtually impossible during the spring.
Mulies are surveyed by air twice a year.
Kreil said only two hunting units in the state are at or above management goals — 4F and 3E2, both in the southwest area of the state.
The harsh conditions followed almost a decade of aggressive management to reduce doe numbers in many areas. The reduction will help deer herds rebound, Kreil said.
Low deer numbers are evident in all portions of North Dakota, Kreil said, since all but two hunting units are below management goals.
The deer gun season opens at noon Nov. 9 and continues through Nov. 25. Online applications for the regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader, and resident gratis and nonresident landowner seasons will be available later this week through the Game and Fish Department’s website at http://gf.nd.gov.
Paper applications will be at vendors throughout the state the week of May 14. The deadline for applying is June 6.