A deer gun license was a tough draw in North Dakota in 2012. It was an even bigger deal to score one in 2013.
The Game and Fish Department made available just 59,500 licenses for the regular gun season last year – the lowest since 1983 and down from 109,550 in 2011.
In 2013, nearly 75,000 hunters applied for a regular deer gun season license, up from about 66,000 in 2012.
With mule deer showing signs of recovery, the Game and Fish Department continued to hold off from issuing mule deer doe licenses again in 2013 in eight badlands hunting units.
2013 was the first year since 2007 that the spring mule deer index was higher than the previous year, but still 22 percent lower than the long-term average. Game and Fish biologists attribute the rise, in part, to not harvesting antlerless mule deer in 2012.
Beginning in 2001 and lasting about a decade, getting a deer license in North Dakota wasn't that difficult as the Department made available more than 100,000 licenses to hunters. License numbers topped out at 149,400 in 2008, but later that year the first of three consecutive hard winters hit the state, making life difficult for deer and other wild game.
Team the weather with a steady decline in wildlife habitat on the landscape, and it's not surprising that deer license numbers fell to 1980s-like levels.
Randy Kreil, Department wildlife division chief, said it's difficult to imagine deer license numbers climbing above 100,000 again anytime soon, considering the loss of about 2 million Conservation Reserve Program acres, large-scale conversion of native grasslands and the destruction of miles and miles of tree belts.
"It wasn't that long ago hunters used accumulated bonus points in order to get a buck license," Kreil said. "If we continue down this same path, however, bonus points will be needed to simply draw a deer license."
Randy Meissner, Department licensing manager, said drawing a buck license in North Dakota in 2013 wasn't easy. He said that after 14,118 gratis licenses and 595 nonresident licenses were deducted from the overall license allocation, only 20,905 buck licenses remained for the 62,654 hunters who applied for them as their first choice in the lottery.
And for the second year in a row, hunters in North Dakota were allowed only one license for the 2013 deer gun season.
How it Works
Despite fewer licenses in 2013, the lottery process did not change. Even so, with new hunters venturing afield every year, there are always questions concerning how the lottery system works. Using deer as the example, though turkey works the same way, here is a reminder.
If you fail to draw your first license choice in any given year, but apply within the next two years, you receive a bonus point. You do not have to apply in the same unit, or for the same deer type, to qualify. You get an additional bonus point each year you apply and do not receive your first license choice, as long as you have applied in the first drawing at least once in the previous two years.
You receive additional chances in the drawing for each bonus point accumulated. For points one through three, you are entered in the drawing two times the number of points you have. So, if you have two points you would get four additional chances to be drawn, compared to a person who got his or her first choice the previous year. If you're both competing for the same license, you have five chances, he or she has one.
When you accumulate four or more points, the number of additional chances is determined by cubing your bonus points. So, when you have four points, you will be in the drawing 64 additional times, 125 times if you have five points, and so on. Bonus points are accumulated as long as you do not draw your first license choice and apply in the first drawing at least every other year. You do not receive bonus points in years you do not apply.
Each drawing is still random, but the more bonus points you have, the better your odds. When you receive your first license choice, you lose your bonus points and start over. Bonus points can only be earned, or used, in the first drawing for each species in each year.
The license lottery consists of four separate drawings, one for each choice on the application. First, we hold a drawing for the first unit/first deer choice. When those have been issued, we draw for the first unit/second deer choice, then the second unit/first deer choice, and finally the second unit/second deer choice.
2013 Turkey License Lottery Results
|Percent of applicants who received their first choice of license in the 2013 spring turkey drawing.|
|Percent of applicants who received their first choice of license in the 2013 fall turkey drawing.|
2013 Lottery Stats
- 59,500 deer licenses were available, down from 65,300 in 2012 and 109,550 in 2011.
- 1,150 mule deer buck licenses were available in 2013, down from 1,200 in 2012. Hunters who applied for these licenses increased from 7,009 in 2012 to 7,667 in 2013.
- 74,789 people applied for deer gun season licenses, up from 66,042 in 2012.
- 62,654 applicants applied for buck licenses as their first choice; 20,905 buck licenses were available in the drawing after 14,118 gratis and 595 nonresident licenses were withheld. There were no doe licenses available for the drawing in units 2A, 3A1 and 3B1 after gratis licenses were withdrawn, making it the second time that gratis licenses took all the licenses of a particular type.
- All buck licenses were issued in the first unit/first choice drawing.
- The highest number of points accumulated by any hunter in the 2013 drawing was 12.
- 5,828 applicants had four or more bonus points, and 1,627 drew their first license choice.
- Applicants who applied for a mule deer buck license accounted for 23 percent of applicants with four or more bonus points, and those applying for a muzzleloader buck accounted for an additional 63 percent.
- The number of people with four or more bonus points increased again this year from 3,737 to 5,007, reflecting the lower number of licenses available in the drawing. Allowing hunters to sit out a year without losing their bonus points also contributed to this increase.
- A buck license in 3A1 was the most difficult license to draw, with more than 20 times more applicants than licenses available. A muzzleloader buck license was a close second, with almost 20 times more applicants than licenses.
- There was no pronghorn season again in 2013.
- 5,930 spring turkey licenses were available in 2013, while 5,745 were available in 2012. The number of applicants increased from 5,710 in 2012 to 6,476 in 2013.
- The number of fall turkey licenses available in 2013 decreased from 4,145 to 4,020. The number of applicants increased from 2,964 in 2012 to 3,482 in 2013.
2013 Deer License Lottery Results
|Percent of applicants who received their first choice of license in the 2013 deer drawing.|
Deer Management Meetings to Explore License Distribution Options
North Dakota deer hunters will have a chance to provide input on how the State Game and Fish Department should distribute deer licenses in the future.
The Game and Fish Department has scheduled eight public meetings in February to discuss deer population status and future management, and part of that discussion is whether the agency should change its current process for allocating licenses, and if so, what options make the most sense.
License distribution is on the drawing board because the state's deer population has gone from an all-time high to a 30-year low in just the last six years.
Game and Fish reduced its deer gun season license allocation from nearly 150,000 in 2008, to 59,500 in 2013. Interest in deer hunting, however, hasn't changed much.
Even during the deer population peak, Game and Fish couldn't provide enough buck licenses for everyone who wanted one. But whitetail doe licenses were readily available, and pretty much any one of the 100,000 or so potential deer hunters in North Dakota could have received one or more doe licenses in a unit fairly close to home.
"Most hunters understand that they may have to make sacrifices while we work to get the deer population headed in the right direction," said Game and Fish Department wildlife chief Randy Kreil. "At the same time, we're hearing from a lot of people who don't think it's fair that anyone should have two licenses while thousands of hunters went without any license last fall."
The meetings will allow Game and Fish to spend some time explaining possible options that might spread out the opportunity somewhat, and what those options would mean for opportunity.
"Right now we have a high public interest in deer hunting in North Dakota," Kreil added. "We're hoping to come up with some solutions to help us maintain that."
Each meeting will begin at 7 p.m. local time.
- Feb. 17 – Devils Lake, Lake Region Community College Auditorium
- Feb. 17 – Casselton, City Fire Hall
- Feb. 18 – Dickinson, Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge
- Feb. 18 – Anamoose, VFW Club
- Feb. 24 – Tioga, Farm Festival Building
- Feb. 24 – Fordville, Community Center
- Feb. 25 – Bismarck, North Dakota Game and Fish Department
- Feb. 25 – Jamestown, The Bunker
The dramatic decline in the number of deer gun season licenses available in North Dakota has prompted a series of special meetings across the state this month. Game and Fish wildlife managers will discuss the factors involved in that decline, and look for input on solutions for providing more hunting opportunities given current deer numbers.