North Dakota’s 2014 deer seasons will look pretty much the same as in previous years.
Through a series of public meetings and an open comment period that ran through March 17, however, deer hunters have provided a lot of input for the State Game and Fish Department to consider for 2015 and beyond.
“We told people at the meetings that it was very unlikely any major changes would take place this year,” said Game and Fish wildlife chief Randy Kreil. “Aside from some possible adjustments to the total number of deer gun season licenses, we won’t be recommending any changes in season structure or the number of licenses any one deer hunter can have.”
Game and Fish wildlife managers will analyze the hundreds of written and verbal comments received, before deciding whether to pursue changes for 2015.
More than 800 people attended the eight deer meetings held around the state the last two weeks in February. Several hundred additional hunters either watched the final meeting broadcast online, or viewed a recorded version. Game and Fish received about 400 written online comments and many other direct emails and phone calls.
“We expected high interest in this process and the response we got was even above that,” Kreil said. “North Dakota hunters are passionate about our deer hunting tradition. Our long-term hope is that habitat trends will allow us to rebuild the deer population from where it is now to a level that is satisfactory to the deer hunting public. Most people seem willing to make some type of short-term licensing-related changes to help us do that. Because of the great response we’ve had, we have a lot of ideas to evaluate, some of which are new or variations of the current system.”
Game and Fish set up the meetings and public comment process to explore some ideas for changes in deer license allocation the agency has received in recent years, in response to a declining deer population and fewer available licenses. In 2008 Game and Fish allocated nearly 150,000 licenses and in 2013 the total fell to 59,500.
While even at 150,000 licenses not every hunter could get a preferred license in a preferred unit, Kreil said the number of hunters who applied for a gun season license and didn’t get one has increased significantly over the past years.