North Dakota: Mule Deer Production Lowest on Record

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Aerial observations during the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s fall mule deer survey indicated production was the lowest since the demographic survey began in 1954.

Bruce Stillings, big game supervisor in Dickinson, said observers who accompanied pilots in fixed-wing planes counted 1,055 (1,613 in 2010) mule deer in the October survey. While the buck-to-doe ratio of 0.47 (0.45 in 2010) was similar to the long-term average of 0.43 bucks per doe, the fawn-to-doe ratio of 0.59 (0.72 in 2010) was the lowest on record, and was well below the long-term average of 0.93 fawns per doe.

“Three straight years of record low production and another severe winter in the forecast makes additional license cuts likely in 2012,” Stillings said.

The fall aerial survey, conducted specifically to study demographics, covers 24 study areas and 306 square miles in western North Dakota. Biologists survey the same study areas in the spring of each year to determine a population index.


Retired2hunt's picture

  Hmmmm.  Definitely not good


Hmmmm.  Definitely not good for North Dakota Mule Deer hunters.  The areas used are mainly within the western portion of the state.  I would make the presumption that these 24 areas and a mere 306 square miles represents well the entire state's mule deer population?  I would think a larger area would be necessary. 

Good idea Vermonster but I don't think any neighboring state would oblige as it would take away tags for residents or it would possibly harvest more than quota needs thus hurting the neighboring state's wildlife population.  However, if there were healthly deer populations in nearby states and quotas not historically being met then I would think your idea has very strong merit.

If it is the cold winters that are taking the toll on ND's deer population then the only other option I would think would be to assist in feeding programs.  That has its issues though.  As a hunter I can only hope that the state of SD DOW is doing the correct actions in managing their deer herd back to healthy population numbers quickly.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

Man, that's etting pretty

Man, that's etting pretty scary up there.  The last couple of years they have talked about both the mule deer and whitetail declines and the possible reasoning up there in North Dakota.  Some places have seemed to stem the tide, at least recently, in the loss of mule deer population.  But to have the lowest since 1954?  They are in deep trouble.

As it says, there are going to need to be more cuts.  I though of something else, but I don't know if they would ever do this.  Maybe shut off hunting for mulies totally for a period of 3-4 years.  Hoever, have some sort of agreement with a bordering state, one that has a decent mule deer population, where North Dakota hunters can either hunt for the resident rate, or at least a little cheaper than the normal out of state rate.

It would be a win-win situation.  The N. Dakota hunters would still have a chance at getting a mulie, and the bordering state would get the economic impact of more hunters coming in to town and using the establishments, hotels, restaurants, etc.  I don't think they would ever do it, but it's a way we could all work together.  Maybe North dakota would have something to offer the other state in return?