GRAND FORKS — Another deer gun season is all but in the rear view mirror in North Dakota and will end a half-hour after sunset on Sunday, Nov. 22.

The firearms deer season in the 100-series permit areas of northeast Minnesota also ends Sunday, and the season in most of northwest Minnesota wrapped up Sunday, Nov. 15.

In northeast North Dakota, it’s been a “typical deer season,” said Blake Riewer, district game warden for the Game and Fish Department in Grand Forks.

“It’s going OK, I guess,” Riewer said this week. “Some hunters are doing well, some are struggling, which again is typical. It seems like the ones that are putting in a little more effort are doing a little better, and it depends where they’re hunting, too.

“Certain areas are better than others.”

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North Dakota deer gun hunting units. (North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
North Dakota deer gun hunting units. (North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

Riewer’s work area covers parts of deer hunting units 2B and 2C, which basically follow the Red River on either side of U.S. Highway 2.

Game and Fish this year offered 1,100 “any antlered” tags and 800 “any antlerless” licenses in 2B, along with 1,000 “any antlered” and 600 “any antlerless” licenses in 2C.

After deductions for gratis tags and nonresident licenses, 599 buck tags and 536 doe tags were available in 2B, while 510 buck tags and 339 doe tags remained in 2C, Game and Fish Department statistics show.

As in much of Minnesota, hunting success was slower, overall, during North Dakota’s opening weekend, Riewer said. Temperatures flirting with the 70-degree mark coupled with strong south winds created conditions that were more reminiscent of midsummer than early November.

North Dakota doesn’t require hunters to register their deer — relying, instead, on a post-season survey it sends out to a random sample of hunters — so specific numbers on hunting success aren’t available.

“I’d say the weather (opening weekend) wasn’t very good as far as being conducive to good deer hunting,” Riewer said. “It was nice to be out, but I would say that once it got cold during the week after opening weekend, the deer started to move, and people started to have more success.”

That trend also was evident in Minnesota, where the Department of Natural Resources this week reported hunters had registered 131,633 deer through Monday, Nov. 16, a tally reflecting the first two weeks of the firearms deer season. After an opening weekend that saw statewide success down 21% from 2019, the rally put the harvest on par with the same point of the season in 2019 and just 2% below the five-year average, John Myers of Forum News Service reported.

Typical violations

In North Dakota, the 2020 version of deer gun season also has been routine in terms of violations, said Riewer, the Grand Forks game warden.

“There’s been a few cases of illegally taken deer, which again is typical,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s more or less than any other year, probably, but there’ve been a few egregious (violations) so far.”

Such as. ...

“Killing deer without a license (and) filling tags for other people, which in North Dakota is highly frowned upon,” Riewer said.

On the upside, no hunting accidents have been reported in his work area — “knock on wood” — Riewer said.

“I wish I had more to tell you, but it’s been a pretty standard season,” he said. “The illegal stuff happens every year, unfortunately.”

Refuges offer late-season hunts

As in previous years, several national wildlife refuges in North Dakota will open to late-season upland game bird hunting Monday, Nov. 23, the day after the deer gun season closes.

As before, portions of each refuge are closed to hunting. Hunters should contact refuge headquarters for information on closed areas and other restrictions. Contact info is as follows:

  • Arrowwood, (701) 285-3341.

  • Audubon, (701) 442-5474.

  • Des Lacs, (701) 385-4046.

  • J. Clark Salyer, (701) 768-2548.

  • Lake Alice, (701) 662-8611.

  • Lake Zahl, (701) 965-6488.

  • Long Lake, (701) 387-4397.

  • Lostwood, (701) 848-2722.

  • Tewaukon, (701) 724-3598.

  • Upper Souris, (701) 468-5467.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife manages national wildlife refuges, and nontoxic shot is required on all FWS lands. State regulations found in the North Dakota 2020-21 Hunting and Trapping Guide apply.

Fall is winding down and ice is forming, but late season hunting opportunities offer yet another reason to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken