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Deer success rates improve after all-time low in 2011

In 2011, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department saw an all-time low hunter success rate of 51 percent.

A year later -- after dropping the number of licenses issued to its lowest since 1988 -- hunters found more success in the field.

There were 66,150 licenses available in 2012. Hunters took approximately 34,500 deer during the gun season, for a success rate of 63 percent.

The NDGF Department's average success rate per year is around 70 percent. NDGF Department wildlife chief Randy Kreil said deer population took a hit undergoing three tough winters in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

"Having those harsh winters back-to-back-to-back had a devastating impact on our deer population," he said. "We had a lot of winter mortality on adult deer and we had very poor fawn recruitment. That was one of the major factor."

Now after two pretty substantially mild winters, Kreil hopes deer start making a rebound.

In different areas of the state, hunters could see higher success rates. The southwest area for example has seen limited snow and mild temperatures including back-to-back days of 60 degrees. But the northwest and eastern side of the state has been colder with more snow. Kreil said the bright spot in those areas is the snow didn't come until later in winter.

"It's been a tougher winter this year than last year, but it started later," Kreil said. "The snow in the northern and eastern parts of the state happened in mid-February. Animals and deer, especially, were in pretty good shape leading up to that. They should come through OK.

"In southwest North Dakota, the deer population should do real well, because it wasn't stressful at all."

Antlered white-tail deer success rate was 76 percent, while antlerless was 62 percent. Mule deer buck success was 81 percent and there were no tags given out for mule deer doe.

The proclamation for the number of deer tags that will be allow for the 2013 has yet to be determined. Kreil said the information from biologists, surveys and input from advisory board meetings will help determine the right number of licenses to give out this upcoming season.

The southwest North Dakota advisory board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 15 in the basement of the Great Plains National Bank in Belfield.

"The deer proclamation is due to the governor's office at the end of the April," Kreil said. "We're working on that right now. That decision on the number won't be made until the end of April after all the advisory board meetings."