Friday morning will hopefully find Michael Schulz sitting in his truck near Hettinger.

Upon the noon hour, he'll then be on the hunt for a buck when North Dakota’s 2017 deer gun season opens.

"I've heard mixed reviews for down there," he said. "Hopefully, it goes good, and, hopefully, we can shoot some deer and get some meat and shoot the one that can go on the wall."

Schulz has one of 54,500 deer gun licenses allocated for this season. Licenses statewide have trended upward since 2015 since sliding after 2007. Jeb Williams, wildlife division chief with North Dakota Game and Fish, said prospects are decent all around this year.

“We have not had any reductions in any units. In some units, we’ve stayed the same, other units have had an increase in licenses and mule deer numbers are looking better,” Williams said.

This year’s drought did not impact deer to a notable extent, but epizootic hemorrhagic disease did affect some white-tailed deer in southwestern North Dakota, he said.

Last year’s state hunters saw about 68 percent success, a good indicator of opportunity, according to Williams.

“That’s always our goal when we issue licenses: Does somebody have a reasonable opportunity at harvesting a deer?” he said of the 16.5-day season.

Schulz, a Fargo sheet metal worker from Casselton, said he’s had success the past two years with doe tags near Hettinger. He hunts with a few buddies on private and state land, and chases pheasants, too.

“We haven’t had too much trouble filling our tags the last few years,” he said.

Dustin Ulmer lost the lottery for a white-tail buck in Unit 2G2 near his native LaMoure, but got a doe in the second draw. This season looks good, he said.

“I’ve seen more fawns this past year than the previous few, but it only takes one hard winter to change that again,” said Ulmer, who also will be scouting waterfowl Friday.

Sausage, brats and chops on the grill are his family’s byproducts of a successful hunt, according to Ulmer. Schulz said he takes his meat to a Dilworth, Minn., butcher, and donates the hide.

For Chris Ahl, deer hunting is a direct link to his livelihood, as he runs the Pekin Lodge, a hive for hunters and anglers.

His family lets deer hunters walk their Sheyenne River land south of Pekin. The deer gun season fits in nicely with bow hunting, muzzleloaders and waterfowl hunters throughout autumn, he said. There’s also fishing north at Stump Lake.

“It all flows together,” Ahl said.

His lodge had just one of seven apartment-style unit available for this weekend, he said on Monday. Hunters come from Fargo, Mayville and outside states.

“For whatever reason, Wisconsin people think this is paradise,” Ahl said.

Williams said bigger city areas and Badlands units are popular with deer gun applicants, as well as Unit 3C encompassing Bismarck-Mandan and 2B and 2C in the Red River Valley.

Licenses essentially come down to supply and demand and a successful draw from the deer gun lottery, he said.

Lotteries generally favor repeatedly unsuccessful applicants who acquire bonus points every year, which progresses a person’s entries from one to three to five to seven after four losing years, then getting really pushed in year five, to 65, 126 and so on.

A hunter’s true success is found in the field, according to Ulmer.

“If you are in the right place, the right time will find you,” he said.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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