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N.D. G&F notebook: Deer firearm season set with fewest licenses available since 2001

North Dakota's 2011 deer season is set with 109,950 licenses available to hunters this fall, 6,825 fewer than last year and the lowest since 2001.

Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said a continued reduction in deer numbers was evident in nearly all of North Dakota, except for some prairie units in the southwest.

"Declining deer numbers are indicative of three successive difficult winters resulting in high deer mortality and extremely low reproductive success," Kreil said. "This, combined with nearly a decade of aggressive deer management when large numbers of antlerless licenses were issued in many units, lowered the state's deer population down to, or in some units below, management goals."

Available deer licenses by unit will either remain the same or slightly decrease, with the exception of some units in the southwest where deer populations remain above management objectives and winter mortality was least evident.

As a result, landowners in the southwest requested an early doe season in an effort to ensure an adequate harvest. Therefore, the 2011 deer proclamation offers a special herd reduction gun season for antlerless deer in units 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2 and 4F. Antlerless license holders can hunt with a gun in their respective unit from Sept. 23 through Oct. 7, in addition to the regular deer gun season.

A special herd reduction season is implemented in an area north of Bismarck along the Missouri River. A total of 200 antlerless licenses are available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Aug. 1. Interested hunters must provide written permission from a landowner in the area before a license is issued. These licenses are valid in all open seasons with the appropriate firearm or archery equipment, with the exception of centerfire rifles which are not allowed in this area for public safety reasons.

The mule deer population in the badlands also felt the bite of three severe winters, with survey numbers 23 percent below last year and 38 percent below 2007. As a result, significantly fewer mule deer licenses are available in 2011.

The number of licenses available for 2011 includes 4,550 for mule deer, a decrease of 2,725 from last year; 2,108 for muzzleloader, down 82 from last year; and 250 restricted youth antlered mule deer, a decrease of 70 from last year. The number of nonresident any-deer archery licenses will decrease to 682 in 2012.

North Dakota's 2011 deer gun season opens Nov. 4 at noon, and continues through Nov. 20. Online applications for the regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader, and resident gratis and nonresident landowner seasons currently are available through the Game and Fish Department's website at Also, paper applications are at vendors throughout the state. The deadline for applying is June 8.

Kreil recommends hunters turn in applications for the first lottery because last year all but three units were sold out, and licenses for this year are reduced even further.

Total deer licenses are determined by harvest rates, aerial surveys, deer-vehicle collision reports, depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff.

Dispose of rough fish properly

Early May is an excellent time to pursue bowfishing for carp and other nongame fish, but participants need to make plans for proper fish disposal.

Since the bowfishing season opened May 1, the State Game and Fish Department has received several reports of fish left to rot along shorelines in several areas of the state.

"You can take the fish home and eat them, put them in your garbage, or bury them someplace where you have permission," says Chief Game Warden Robert Timian, "but it's not legal to put dead fish back in the water or leave them on shore."

Game wardens and other law enforcement officers have the authority to issue citations for littering to those who do not dispose of their fish properly, Timian said. The minimum fine for littering is $100.

"While it's nice that people take advantage of this recreational opportunity, they also need to have a plan for proper disposal of dead fish," he said.