Pronghorn licenses are taking another jump in North Dakota, as the population continues a slow but relatively steady rebound from devastating winters in the late-2000s.
North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department will make 1,330 licenses available for the fall hunt in 12 open hunting units, up 24% from 1,075 licenses in 10 units last year.
A recently completed aerial survey indicated the population of the animals that resemble the African antelope is up 4% from 2018, according to Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor for Game and Fish.
“A combination of milder winter conditions since 2010-11, closed seasons from 2010-13, and improved fawn production and survival since 2013 have resulted in the population reaching a level that is able to support a higher harvest this fall,” he said.
A string of harsh winters that decimated the pronghorn population led to hunting being banned from 2010 through 2013 to allow the animals to recover.
Hunting resumed in 2014, but only 250 licenses were issued, in one unit. With the exception of a drop from 2016 to 2017 due to a tough winter followed by a summer drought, license numbers have increased steadily since, as have the number of open hunting units.
This fall, two units -- 1D and 10A in McKenzie County/northern Badlands area – will be open for the first time since 2009. Game and Fish this year also is issuing doe/fawn licenses for the first time since the resumption of hunting seasons, in Unit 4A, in the extreme southwestern corner of the state.
Survey results indicate the pronghorn fawn-to-doe ratio this year was 61 fawns per 100 does, which was similar to last year and equal to the long-term average. The buck-to-doe ratio of 38 bucks per 100 does remains stable and above the population objective, Stillings said.
While there haven’t been any huge jumps in pronghorn numbers this decade, the recovery has been fairly constant.
“The population seems like it has been filling in those gaps slowly over a period of time,” state Wildlife Chief Jeb Williams said.
Hunting of pronghorn is popular in North Dakota, with thousands of hunters applying each year for licenses that are doled out through a lottery process.
Game and Fish is accepting license applications through Wednesday. This year’s bow season is Aug. 30-Sept. 22. The gun season is Oct. 4-20. Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply.
Eight-one percent of hunters who got a license for last year’s season bagged a pronghorn, on par with the 80% threshold that Game and Fish considers a good year.