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Published May 28, 2013, 09:15 AM

Hunters face slimmer odds in North Dakota deer lottery

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — For deer gun hunters — and landowners for that matter — the 2013 deer season will be another one in which planning, preparation and strategy will play a large part in success.

By: BRIAN GEHRING,The Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — For deer gun hunters — and landowners for that matter — the 2013 deer season will be another one in which planning, preparation and strategy will play a large part in success.

And that's just to get drawn in the upcoming lottery.

The deadline to apply for this fall's deer gun season is June 5, and the odds of drawing into a license are lower than a year ago.

The number of deer tags available to North Dakotans for this season is 59,500, the lowest since 1983.

Of the 5,800 reduction in tags for this season, 47 percent came from hunting units in the Red River Valley, said Randy Kreil, wildlife division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

"That's a direct result of the severe winter in the northern and eastern part of the state and its impact on the deer herd," Kreil told The Bismarck Tribune.

The prolonged winter resulted in reports of multiple adult mortality in deer, and the stress from the conditions is expected to hurt the reproduction rate this spring, he said.

For the 2012 deer gun season, the number of tags offered was down about 40 percent from the previous year. But even with that reduction, Kreil said, management goals are below objectives in all but four hunting units — 3E2, 3F1, 3F2 and 4F.

"If you go 25 miles north or east of Bismarck, they had real winter there for most of the year," Kreil said.

What it means for the upcoming lottery is that hunters will have to do some homework when it comes to what and where they want to hunt this season.

The days when hunters could apply for buck tag in the first choice unit and still draw into that same unit for a doe tag are a thing of the past.

Hunters will be able to draw one license for the deer gun season and one for the muzzleloader season, and purchase an archery license.

Like last year, there is no concurrent season and a hunter cannot receive more than one license for the deer gun season.

For a second consecutive year there will be no doe season on mule deer.

Last year, Kreil said, the Game and Fish Department decided to close the season on mule deer does at the recommendation of a couple of landowners in the western part of the state. It was based on reports of fewer animals.

Kreil said recent aerial surveys of the Badlands units showed an increase of 15 percent in the mule deer population there, which he characterized as a modest increase.

The number of licenses available for 2013 is 1,150 mule deer bucks, a decrease of 50 licenses from last year; 1,166 for muzzleloader, down 116 from last year; and 115 restricted youth antlered mule deer, a decrease of five from last year.

For the first time this year, bow hunters will have to purchase their archery license online, at the Game and Fish Department headquarters in Bismarck or by phone at 800-406-6409.

Archery tags will not be sold over the counter at license vendor locations this year. The Game and Fish Department is implementing all-electronic licensing that is scheduled to take effect in 2015.

Kreil said the biggest change for hunters will be deciding what to apply for as their first choice when it comes to buck or doe or even the first choice of unit. If hunters mark a buck as their first choice and are not successful, there may not be any doe tags remaining in that unit after the first drawing, he said.

Another change regarding license availability deals with landowner, or gratis, tags.

Kreil said the same restrictions that apply to the average hunter apply to landowners.

To get a gratis tag, landowners must submit their application by the June 5 deadline. If the licenses are sold out in the landowner's unit before they apply, they will not be able to get a gratis license.

House Bill 1131, passed this legislative session, would allow landowners to get any legal deer license if their application is received by the June 5 deadline.

HB1131 has a couple of other provisions: It reduces the number of acres required to qualify from 160 to 150 for gratis and nonresident applicants. It also allows residents who turn age 12 in 2013 to receive an antlerless white-tailed deer license, and allows an individual who turns 14 this year to receive one deer license valid for the youth deer season. Previously, a young hunter had to turn the appropriate age prior to the end of the respective big game season.

The 2013 deer gun season opens at noon Nov. 8 and runs through Nov. 24.

Online applications for the regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader and resident gratis and nonresident landowner seasons are available through the Game and Fish Department's website at http://gf.nd.gov.

Paper applications also are available at vendors.

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