Brandon Charvat is looking forward to North Dakota’s deer gun season, but he’ll probably miss opening day.
"That's the only thing about owning a gun shop — that first day there before the actual full-day start is pretty busy, so I'll probably be here, but you've got three weeks," the owner of Mandan Sporting Goods said of the season.
North Dakota’s 16.5-day deer gun season opens at noon Friday, with 55,150 licenses allocated.
A modest increase in licenses continues a trend from the past three years, according to Jeb Williams, chief of the state Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Division.
Anecdotal data and field reports suggest deer reproduction was good this year in the Bismarck-Mandan area, he said.
“We once again feel like we’ve been conservative enough with deer licenses, folks that have a deer license have a great opportunity to be successful,” Williams said.
Hunting units around the state’s population centers — Fargo, Bismarck, Minot, Grand Forks, Dickinson, Williston — tend to be popular, he added.
Heather Faris, who works at Butcher Block Meats in Mandan, said she plans to walk ravines near Carson for a white-tailed doe. She’s hunted deer about 15 years and enjoys the outdoors.
“I like getting out there and walking and taking in the nature and then harvesting, getting meat,” she said.
Faris, 38, said deer hunting is a family affair. Her dad got her started. Her 15-year-old daughter has taken hunter education, which her 11-year-old son will also do soon. Faris' family also hunts pheasants.
Charvat, 42, has hunted deer since he was 16. He and his 20-year-old daughter both have buck tags. His 12-year-old daughter, Parker, also took her hunter’s education this year.
But hunting isn’t for everyone.
“My wife won’t step on an ant,” Charvat said.
Sausage is Faris' favorite way to prepare her deer meat. She brings it to her workplace to be processed.
"I'm a carnivore," she said.
Charvat said backstraps and tenderloins are some of the best cuts. He also makes sausage with recipes from old-timers.
“A little bit of everything," he said.
Average deer hunter success in 2017 was about 62 percent, according to Williams, adding that 70 percent is the goal, though the western and eastern sides of the state vary.
Western North Dakota has seen positive growth and harvests of white-tailed and mule deer, while the east has seen "more challenges" in success, Williams said.
Mule deer in the Little Missouri Badlands are always a popular choice among hunters, he said.
“We’re still seeing pretty healthy, positive growth, population growth with our mule deer numbers in the western part of the state, and that’s a good, positive thing,” Williams said. “We know the interest level is really high for people wanting to recreate out in the Badlands.”
Charvat said he's found weekdays, such as Tuesday or Thursday, to be a little better and quieter for hunting deer. Weekends tend to bring out more hunters, he said. The season extending over Thanksgiving weekend is nice, too.
“I'll find time," he said.