Leier: It was a good year for ND pronghorns
WEST FARGO -- Most North Dakotans can relate to the trials and tribulations of how fragile it is to grow a crop of any kind in the extremes of the Midwest. And it doesn't matter whether the crop is thousands of acres of wheat or a few square feet...
WEST FARGO -- Most North Dakotans can relate to the trials and tribulations of how fragile it is to grow a crop of any kind in the extremes of the Midwest. And it doesn’t matter whether the crop is thousands of acres of wheat or a few square feet of backyard tomatoes.
It’s not much different with annual production of deer, pheasants and pronghorn in North Dakota. While the jury’s still out on pheasant and deer production, it appears that 2016 was a good year for pronghorns, and that means hunters will find more units open and more licenses available this year.
“Overall, our pronghorn numbers are up 34 percent from last year, with better fawn production of 66 fawns per 100 does compared to 52 per 100 in 2015,” Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the State Game and Fish Department said.
What that means for this year is that Game and Fish is allocating 730 licenses in seven open units. That compares to 410 licenses last year in three open units.
For a historical perspective, North Dakota had a record number of pronghorn licenses in 2007, at nearly 6,100. Two years later, on the heels of the severe winter of 2008-09, the number of licenses fell to 2,360.
In the fall of 2010, Game and Fish closed the pronghorn season and another severe winter in 2010-11 made the situation worse. The population bottomed out in 2012, but rebuilt enough for Game and Fish to reopen the season with a limited number of licenses in 2014.
Now, Williams said, “the foundation is set for an even larger increase next year, as many other units are doing well, and are close to opening with the observed population levels. But we are continuing to be conservative to ensure steady population growth throughout the pronghorn range.”
The details for the 2016 season indicate that along with units 3B, 4A and 4C in the extreme southwestern corner of North Dakota, which were the only open units in 2015, units 1A, 2A, 2B and 3A north to I-94 and beyond, also have a limited number of licenses.
In unit 1A 110 licenses are available, 60 in 2A, 40 in 2B, 35 in 3A, 110 in 3B, 300 in 4A and 75 in 4C. All licenses are valid for any pronghorn.
Similar to last year, each unit will have a season that is split into an early “bow-only” portion, and a later gun/bow season.
The bow-only portion of the season is from Sept. 2 (noon) - Sept. 25. Anyone who draws a license can hunt pronghorn with a bow in the unit printed on the license.
From Sept. 30 (noon) - Oct.16, hunters who still have a valid license can use legal firearms or bow equipment, and again must stay in the assigned unit.
Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply for a 2016 pronghorn license. Williams said people who have accumulated bonus points and choose not to apply this year will not lose their points.
In addition, state law allows youth who turn age 12 on or before December 31, 2016 to apply for a license.
Prospective hunters can apply online at the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov or or via phone at 800-406-6409. Paper applications are available for printing off the website, and from license vendors.
The pronghorn license fee is $30, and the deadline for submitting applications is Aug. 3.
Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.