Every five years, North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists establish a benchmark for deer licenses in the state – a number that will guide management decisions for several years.
The five-year goal is an effort that involves biological information from deer surveys and hunter-harvest figures, plus observations and input from game wardens, hunters, landowners and others who have a stake in North Dakota deer management. For this 2010 five-year plan, Game and Fish presented draft goals at the spring advisory meetings, and made numerous changes based on public input received.
The new five-year goal is for a statewide deer population that would provide 124,800 deer gun licenses. Within this total, outlined in the information that follows, are license objectives for each of the 38 hunting units.
It is important to understand that unit and statewide goals will not necessarily match the number of licenses Game and Fish will issue each year. The goal is an ideal number given consistent winter weather and habitat conditions. As the variables change, however, the number of licenses will likely go up or down every year, based on whether harvest needs to increase or decrease to move toward the goal the following year.
For instance, the 2010 deer gun license allocation was about 116,000, with a major reduction in antlerless licenses from the previous year in most units, which will promote deer population growth in those units, at least until the number of licenses can increase to match unit goals. If the population gets too high, Game and Fish may have to greatly increase the number of licenses in order to move deer numbers back down toward the goal.
The new five-year goal is about a 25 percent increase over the goal established in 2005 of 100,000 licenses. Since that plan was developed, through input from hunters, landowners and others, Game and Fish wildlife managers determined that a somewhat higher deer population could still strike a balance between hunter interest, landowner tolerance and public acceptance.
Game and Fish welcomes input on this five-year plan, as preparations for the next plan in 2015 are already beginning. To pass along your comments, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; call us at (701) 328-6300; or write North Dakota Game and Fish Department, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501.