Record Number of Deer Harvested in 2004

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North Dakota deer hunters tagged a record number of deer in 2004, according to Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Such a high harvest was not unexpected, as game and fish allocated a record 145,250 deer gun licenses for the 2004 season, and only 1,256 went unissued.

Data reveals an overall success rate of 74 percent, down 5 percent from 2003, but about average over the past 15 years. Due to the record number of licenses issued, the overall deer harvest was 98,500, up from 91,900 in 2003.

One of the primary objectives of the 2004 deer season, according to Kreil, was to significantly increase the harvest of antlerless white-tailed deer. "The state's white-tailed deer population is well-above management objectives in many units," Kreil said. "In order to more effectively meet management goals, a special supplemental deer season for only antlerless white-tailed deer was held in December."

The special December deer season was considered a success, Kreil mentioned, as an estimated 7,700 antlerless white-tailed deer were taken. "This was about 8 percent of the total harvest," he added.

Overall hunter success for any-antlered deer was 74 percent, and any-antlerless was 73 percent. The number of hunters who purchased a license but did not attempt to fill it increased from 6 to 7 percent. The average hunter spent three days afield.

Hunter success for whitetail bucks was 73 percent, and anterless whitetail was 72 percent .

Mule deer numbers and harvest have been gradually increasing, with high success rates, Kreil mentioned, as 82 percent of mule deer buck hunters and 84 percent of mule deer doe hunters were successful.

"From hunter harvest surveys and public comment it appears that we are reaching management goals in some units in the northwestern and southeastern portions of the state," Kreil said.

Department biologists are in the process of determining the number of deer licenses that will be available in 2005. "Since the winter was easy on the deer herd we anticipate low winter mortality and high reproduction in 2005," Kreil said. "To determine deer license numbers for 2005, we will be evaluating hunter harvest data, deer survey data, deer-vehicle collision reports, depredation reports, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff."