Thursday, November 08, 2007

NORTH DAKOTA NEWS: Will Record Deer Licenses Translate to a Record Deer Harvest?

North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials are hoping a record number of deer licenses and hunters will help control the state's burgeoning deer population.

The state's deer gun season opens at noon Friday and continues through Nov. 25.

"I think we'll have a real good deer season," wildlife chief Randy Kreil said. "The deer are healthy, the weather looks good and the enthusiasm is certainly there, with a record number of people wanting to participate."

Kreil said about one in six North Dakotans are expected to hunt deer this year.

The Game and Fish Department issued a record 148,550 deer licenses, up 5,050 from 2006. An additional 4,350 whitetail and 700 mule deer licenses are available this year.

Kreil said 97 percent of the licenses had been issued by Thursday afternoon.

"Our deer population - especially for whitetail - is at an all-time high because of an unprecedented decade of mild winters," Kreil said. "We've jacked up the numbers of licenses to meet our management goals and get the population back in check."

Woody Woodward, an owner of Gun and Reel Sports Inc. in Jamestown, has been seeing more deer.

"There sure are a lot of deer around, and a lot of dead ones on the road," he said.

Woodward said the week before the opener is among the busiest times of the year at his business. The store opens an hour earlier on the opening day of deer season.

"Most deer hunters are good customers, but they wait to last minute - more so than bird hunters," Woodward said.

Deer hunters usually are lined up at the store before it opens, "but by noon, you can shoot a cannon through here and not hit anybody," Woodward said.

Last year hunters - including those with bows and muzzleloaders - killed more than 100,000 deer in North Dakota, besting the previous record of 99,600 set in 2005. The success rate was pegged at about 77 percent, Kreil said.

Wildlife officials are hoping hunters best last year's record harvest by about 10,000 deer, he said.

Roger Johnson, a Game and Fish big game biologist in Devils Lake, said hunters are happy with the number of deer in North Dakota this year, and they could see success rates of more than 80 percent in fields without row crops.

"When sunflowers and corn don't get harvested, it makes for better hiding," Johnson said.

Kreil said the number of deer licenses issued in 1976 was about 40,000, and has increased since.

Opening weekend is when the bulk of hunters go afield, Kreil said. Deer are North Dakota's most sought-after game, followed by pheasants, he said.

"I expect 70,000 to 80,000 people out chasing deer around this weekend," Kreil said. "I think there will be a lot fewer deer around on Monday."


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