Crunching the numbers
Deer hunters in southwestern North Dakota could see an earlier deer season in units 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2 and 4F, which are located in parts of Adams, Bowman, Hettinger, Morton, Sioux, Slope and Stark counties.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department announced plans to consider the special season in September or October at its advisory board meeting held at the Dickinson Eagles Club Monday.
Randy Kreil, the chief of the wildlife division with the NDGF, said as a result of aerial deer surveys, which showed high deer populations in the area and depredation complaints, the department is considering a special season.
A similar season was instituted for the first time in northeastern North Dakota last fall and was a success with 10 percent of the unit's doe harvest taking place during the special September season.
"We think this could be equally successful, but only if landowners cooperate and give people the opportunity to access their property to shoot does," Kreil said.
Kreil said the initial plan was for the special season to start Oct. 2 and end Oct. 9, the day before the opening day of pheasant season. But an audience member questioned whether or not it was a good idea to have the special season during youth pheasant season, which is Oct. 4-6.
As a result, Kreil said it may be necessary to open the special season the weekend before and close it during the youth pheasant season and then reopen it the following Monday.
"That's why we have these meetings," Kreil said to laughs from the crowd. "This is the kind of feedback and questions we want."
The deer season proclamation, which sets the rules for the year's deer season and determines the licenses issued, is due on the governor's desk on April 27.
The majority of southwestern North Dakota will likely see an increase in overall deer licenses offered as well, Kreil said.
Deer populations have been healthy in recent years and the Game and Fish has tried to aggressively lower the numbers, but after a severe winter and some feedback from landowners and hunters, they will likely pull back this year.
"Over the past five years, we've been aggressively harvesting does where we're above our population objective," Kreil said. "In the southeast corner of the state we've actually reduced deer numbers to the point where landowners and hunters are saying 'you've gone to far.'"
Director of NDGF Terry Steinwand said there are several factors which are going to complicate the development of the deer proclamation this year.
"This is going to be a real tough puzzle to get these pieces together," Steinwand said. "It's just a combination of looking at our aerial surveys, our hunter observations and our harvest rates.
"It's just a whole pile of things and the difficult thing this year is we have conflicting reports in some areas."
Steinwand said it's important to think to the future and consider the possibility of another tough winter following next year, but it is equally important not to go too far when it comes to pulling back on the number of licenses issued.
"We learned after 96-97 if you feel sorry for them and let up a little bit they can get out of hand in a real big hurry and we don't want that to happen," Steinwand said. "We want to have a stable population out there."
"One of the things that we've always told people is some of the most significant impact from a tough winter are in subsequent years because you get less reproductive success from those does the next year," Kreil said. "So that's going to complicate this as well."