North Dakota Game and Fish: Success in North Dakota’s deer lottery

Doug Leier

 Success in North Dakota’s deer lottery or in the field are not easy to numerically define. One hunter's definition of success might be just drawing a tag and spending opening day with friends and family. Renewing the annual traditions of the year provides a successful feeling of accomplishment. In fact, some may not even put in for a tag but just enjoy a hot cup of coffee, a smile and story from years gone by with hunters in the group who drew a tag. 

A total of 58,146 North Dakota deer hunters took approximately 39,322 deer during the 2020 deer gun hunting season, according to a post-season survey conducted by the state Game and Fish Department.

 The other end of the spectrum is the veteran hunter who spent as many days and hours possible in search of a buck of a lifetime, yet never pulled the trigger as the Sunday evening sunset signals season’s end.

 Statistical success versus personal success is not easily gleaned from pure numbers. You could relate dozens of other scenarios in your own mind which would classify as either successful or disappointing. 

 With that in mind, let’s review hunter activity and success from last year. A total of 58,146 North Dakota deer hunters took approximately 39,322 deer during the 2020 deer gun hunting season, according to a post-season survey conducted by the state Game and Fish Department.

 Game and Fish made available 68,650 deer gun licenses last year and 58,146 hunters took part. When looking at hunter success, understand over 10,000 hunters for some reason or another didn’t hunt. Overall hunter success was 68%, with each hunter spending an average of 4.8 days in the field.

 Could success have been higher with the number of day’s increasing? A plausible scenario. But that’s nothing more than a safe assumption. If hunters had spent even more days in the field during the 16-plus day season, it stands to reason more deer tags would have be filled. 

A female white-tailed deer rests with its three fawns just hours after the young deer were born May 13 along the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee.

 Breaking down within the overall success:   

Hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer was 67%, and antlerless whitetails was 63%.

Mule deer buck success was 81%, and antlerless mule deer was 83%.

Hunters with any-antlered or any-antlerless licenses generally harvest white-tailed deer, as these licenses are predominantly in units with mostly whitetails. Buck hunters had a success rate of 70%, while doe hunters had a success rate of 69%.

Game and Fish issued 12,130 gratis licenses in 2020, and 9,678 hunters harvested 5,612 deer, for a success rate of 58%.

 One other stat worth a side note is that the highest success (83% for mule deer bucks) was for the what is arguably the hardest tag to draw. That suggests that those who draw the tag will put in the time and effort to harvest an animal.

 The gratis tag, is essentially a non-lottery license and issued to eligible landowners outside of the lottery, saw the lowest breakout of success at 58% even after spending the greatest average number of days hunting at 5.8. 

North Dakota’s 2021 deer season is set, with 72,200 licenses available to hunters, 3,150 more than last year.

The deadline for applying is June 2 online at gf.nd.gov

North Dakota’s 2021 deer gun season opens Nov. 5 at noon and continues through Nov. 21.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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