GRAND FORKS -- Drawing a tag for North Dakota’s deer gun season is a lot more difficult than it was in the mid-2000s, when the state Game and Fish Department offered as many as 150,000 licenses statewide, but there’s no disputing the prominence of deer season as a happening on the state’s outdoors calendar.

North Dakota’s 16 ½-day deer gun season opens at noon Friday, Nov. 9.

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“We know there’s still a lot of people that participate in the social activities associated with deer hunting, and friends and family gathering from all parts of the state,” said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck. “There are a lot of traditions out there that mean an awful lot to a lot of people.”

Game and Fish this year offered 55,150 deer gun licenses statewide, an increase of 650 tags from last year. Still, demand continues to far outpace supply. According to Game and Fish statistics, more than 113,000 prospective hunters applied for tags in the June lottery, and nearly 55,000 were unsuccessful.

Ideally, Williams said, Game and Fish would like to see deer numbers high enough to offer 75,000 gun tags while maintaining hunting success of 70 percent, considered the benchmark for deer hunters in North Dakota, given the state’s open terrain.

North Dakota hunters last year had a success rate of 61 percent during the deer gun season. Game and Fish will revisit its deer management goals in 2020, Williams said.

“We’re shy of that goal as of right now, and my guess is, if I had to say right now, I’d be surprised if over the next two years we were able to get to 75,000 deer licenses,” he said.

On the upside, hunters with tags this year should encounter good opportunities to bag a buck or doe depending on their license type, Williams said.

“We do feel good about where deer numbers are at in some units as far as looking at some increases potentially over the next year or two,” he said. “But we all know that with the weather in North Dakota, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself.”

North Dakota’s deer gun season continues through Nov. 25. Muzzleloader season opens at noon Nov. 13 and continues through Dec. 16.