The North Dakota Game and Fish Department received 95,000 applications for deer licenses during the first part of its lottery process, a number licensing manager Randy Meissner said generally hovers within the same range every year.
During the first application process, 51,000 of those applications were unsuccessful.
After the first drawing, Meissner said there are approximately 1,400 licenses remaining.
“That is one of the lowest numbers I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “There are not many permits left going into this second lottery.”
Because that number is so small, he anticipates the majority of those remaining will be issued during the second half of the process.
Some years, there are additional licenses left after the second lottery, which are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. But Meissner said the process will likely not occur this year.
He said there are fewer licenses this year than in the past due to a declining deer population throughout the state.
Naturalist and rancher John Heiser said a decline in deer populations is a result of three consecutively cold winters, starting in 2009, which decimated numbers. One winter, he estimated 105 inches of snow fell, a number well above the 40-inch average.
“Mortality was extreme,” Heiser said. “I have never seen anything remotely like it.”
He said because of conditions, deer struggled to find food that year.
And while deer populations tend to bounce back quickly, he said there are other factors playing a role in declining numbers, such as habitat loss as a result of a changing climate and, more locally, oil production.
As long as numbers stay low, so will the amount of allocated licenses.
In an attempt to make the lottery more fair, Meissner said the process is weighted, meaning every year someone has submitted an application but was not drawn is given a bonus point that increases their odds of being chosen.
The application process for the remaining licenses will be available Aug. 5 with a deadline of Sept. 2.