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Residents want to know what the future holds for mule deer

Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, speaks during a NDGF Advisory Board meeting at the Beach High School Tuesday evening.

BEACH -- Low mule deer numbers in the state was a hot topic at the North Dakota Game and Fish Advisory Board District 8 meeting Tuesday evening at Beach High School.

"We used to have mule deer in the yard all the time," said Mark Egan of Beach. "Now there's nothing, absolutely zero deer."

Curt Decker of Dickinson wants younger generations to enjoy the same sport he has.

"I've been lucky and real fortunate. I've experienced some of the best years that North Dakota had to offer, but I have a 20-year-old that is just catching the back end of this and what's the future going to have for him?" he said. "I just want to see something left for that next generation."

Decker is concerned mountain lions contributed to the decrease in population.

Jeb Williams, NDGF assistant chief of wildlife division, said though this winter was mild, past harsh winters were the biggest contributing factor to low deer populations.

"Now the fair and concerning question is with the cat population where it is, how is that going to impact the growth now of the mule deer population?" he said.

Terry Steinwand, director of NDGF, said a mountain lion study under way will help determine how much they are impacting deer populations.

He added there are multiple factors contributing to the decrease.

"Energy development is causing some change in patterns," Steinwand said. "We're in some challenging times. There's no doubt about it."

There have been "drastic" reductions in the number of deer licenses offered, he said.

Bruce Stillings, NDGF big game supervisor, said there was a 50 percent reduction in the number of doe licenses last year.

In addition, there may be a 44,700 reduction in the total number of deer gun licenses this year, bringing it down to 65,250 licenses. No female mule deer licenses will be issued, according to a draft document made available at the meeting.

"Shut it all down for a year or so and give them a break," Decker said.

NDGF is also proposing limiting licenses to one deer gun license per person per year, Steinwand said.

"What it does is it spreads out the opportunity," he said.

Williams said available licenses are the lowest they've ever been, but NDGF still wants to provide the opportunity for people to hunt.

"It's kind of a balancing act," he said.