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A Look Back

Article By 
Ron Wilson
Look Back

In the early 1960s, North Dakota Game and Fish Department big game biologists gathered in the Killdeer Mountains in the western part of the state to gather biological information on deer harvested by hunters.

Back then, the bonus of having Department personnel drop in on a hunter after he shot his deer was cracking back while biologists weighed, then field-dressed the animal. After the animal was cleaned, measurements were taken, teeth were examined to determine age,  the deer was weighed once again, sometimes in the field or in an area landowner’s barn.

“Through this unusual approach, the Department will secure valuable weight and measurement data that will aid in better management of deer resources in North Dakota,” according to an article in the November 1964 North Dakota OUTDOORS.


The year this photo was taken in the Killdeer Mountains was 1963.

The photo cutline read: “The game is weighed again to determine normal weight loss of animals in each age and sex group during the field dressing process. These cooperating hunters from New Town, New Rockford, Minto and Cavalier are happy with the arrangement. They are (from left to right) Bud Pudill, Eggert Einarson, James Walski and Harvey Nordin.”

The buck was shot by Walski and it weighed 242 pounds.

In 1963 the deer gun season in North Dakota was just 9 ½ days long, which is short by today’s 16 ½-day standard. Even so, it beats what hunters were afforded just a decade earlier in 1953, which was no season at all.

Back in the day, when deer weren’t as plentiful across the North Dakota landscape, having a closed season wasn’t that unusual. From 1931 to 1953, deer season in North Dakota was closed 10 times, and in those years when the season was open, hunters had less than a week to harvest their animal.

In 1963, total licenses made available to hunters statewide was 30,039, but not everyone made it into the field. The hunter total that year was 29,753.

Hunter success in 1963 was about 41 percent. By comparison, the Department’s current hunter harvest goal is about 70 percent. Some years it’s lower, some years it’s higher. For a number of years in the 2000s, hunter success statewide exceeded 70 percent.

Also in 1963, the total harvest was 12,537 deer. Nearly 10,000 of those were whitetails and the remainder mule deer.

And for certain, at least according to this dated black and white photograph, at least one group of hunters didn’t have to get their hands messy field-dressing their deer.