North Dakota’s deer season opens at noon Nov. 10; here’s what’s in store

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GRAND FORKS — North Dakota’s 2023 deer gun season opens at noon Central Time on Friday, Nov. 10, and continues for 16½ days through Sunday, Nov. 26. Here’s a look at what hunters going afield need to know.

A long, hard winter was tough on deer in many parts of North Dakota – especially in the easternmost hunting units – and fewer hunters will be going afield for this year’s deer gun season as a result.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department offered 53,400 deer gun licenses this year, down 10,800 tags from last year and the lowest since 2016. In addition, the department reduced muzzleloader licenses by 146 and youth antlered mule deer licenses by 145.

“The severity of winter conditions this year was record-setting, particularly in the eastern half of the state,” Casey Anderson, wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck, said in May when the license reductions were announced. “Conservative license allocations are intended to maintain hunting opportunities while continuing to encourage population growth.”

Habitat loss makes it more difficult for deer populations to bounce back from tough winters, Anderson said. In the Red River Valley, for example, deer-gun harvest densities are down about 90% from 2005, when enrollment in the federal Conservation Reserve Program was near its peak. Hunting units in the Red River Valley have since lost more than 70% of CRP grass cover and other key habitat features.

In Unit 2B, for example, an area south of U.S. Highway 2 extending along the Red River from Grand Forks to south of Fargo, only 492 any-antlered deer licenses were available to nearly 3,000 applicants after the 488 gratis licenses were issued for the upcoming deer gun season.

A complete look at deer licenses available by unit and the number of applicants by unit and license type is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.

Can’t find your North Dakota deer license? With the deer gun season now less than a week away, hunters in North Dakota who can’t find their license should contact the Game and Fish Department soon to get a replacement tag before the season opens.

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If you’re one of those who can’t find your tag, contact Game and Fish by phone at (701) 328-6335 or by email at ndgf@nd.gov to authorize the online purchase of a replacement tag. Printable applications are not available.

This year, the observance of Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 10, and state agency offices are normally closed; however, Game and Fish offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

North Dakota hunters have several options for getting their deer tested for chronic wasting disease this fall, both at drop-off sites and with self-sampling kits available from the Game and Fish Department.

Hunters can drop off deer heads at any of the following locations:

  • Bismarck: North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife health lab, 3001 E. Main Ave.
  • Devils Lake: North Dakota Game and Fish Department district office, 7928 45th St. NE.
  • Dickinson: North Dakota Game and Fish Department district office, 225 30th Ave SW.
  • Fargo: North Dakota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, 4035 19th Ave. N.
  • Grand Forks: Grand Forks County Sheriff, 5205 Gateway Drive.
  • Jamestown: North Dakota Game and Fish Department district office, 3320 E Lakeside Road.
  • Kenmare: Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, 42000 520th St NW.
  • Lonetree: North Dakota Game and Fish Department district office, 1851 23rd Ave. NE. (Available only during office hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday).
  • Lamoure: Community Volunteer EMS of Lamoure, 300 Fourth St SE.
  • Minot: State Fairgrounds, 2005 E. Burdick Expressway.
  • Napoleon: Transportation Department, 59 Broadway St.
  • Riverdale: North Dakota Game and Fish Department district office, 406 Dakota Ave.
  • Wahpeton: Transportation Department, 7930 180th Ave. SE.
  • Williston: North Dakota Game and Fish Department district office, 5303 Front St. W.

An interactive map of drop-off sites is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.

For hunters who wish to have their deer tested but can’t drop the head off at a collection site, sampling kits can be requested online at gf.nd.gov. The kits allow hunters to remove the lymph nodes and ship them to the department’s wildlife health lab for testing.

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Here’s what big game hunters in North Dakota need to know about transporting deer, elk or moose they shoot this fall as a precaution against spreading CWD:

  • Whole carcasses of animals harvested in North Dakota may now be transported anywhere in the state or can remain in the deer unit. Carcass waste must be disposed of via landfill or waste management provider. This does not apply to heads dropped at CWD collection sites or lymph nodes submitted for CWD surveillance. Taxidermists and game processors can also accept intact carcasses of animals harvested within North Dakota but assume responsibility for disposal.
  • A new management strategy allows baiting restrictions to be removed in a unit if the number of adult deer equivalent to at least 10% of the gun licenses allocated in the unit are tested for CWD within a year, and all the results are negative. If the sampling goal is not met or CWD is confirmed in the unit, the baiting restriction will remain.
  • No new units have been added to the baiting restriction list for 2023-24. Due to the timing of finalizing the 2023 CWD proclamation, a one-year pause was placed on adding new units. Units 2K1 and 3B2 are scheduled to be added to the restriction list in 2024 because of a positive CWD detection during the 2022 hunting season within 25 miles in an adjacent unit. They will not be added if the 10% goal is reached this year and all CWD test results are negative.
  • Hunters are prohibited from transporting into North Dakota the whole carcass or parts, except the lower-risk portions, of deer, elk, moose or other members of the cervid family harvested outside of North Dakota.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department encourages hunters, anglers and landowners who witness a fish or wildlife violation to file a report with Report All Poachers.

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Witnesses should report a violation by calling RAP at (701) 328-9921.

Witnesses should note the vehicle description, including make, color, license plate number and state issued. A description of the violator should also be considered.

The RAP line offers rewards – from $100 to $1,000 depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime – for information leading to the conviction of fish and wildlife law violators. Reports can also go directly to game wardens or other law enforcement agencies. Callers can remain anonymous.

North Dakota deer hunters had an overall success rate of 53% during the 2022 deer gun season, as 47,590 hunters went afield and shot about 25,093 deer, according to season statistics from the state Game and Fish Department.

Game and Fish offered 64,200 deer gun licenses last year, and hunters spent an average of 4.4 days in the field.

By comparison, North Dakota deer gun hunters had a 68% success rate in 2020 and 57% in 2021, shooting an estimated 39,322 and 32,793 deer, respectively, according to Herald archives. Game and Fish offered 68,650 deer gun licenses in 2020 and 72,200 deer gun licenses in 2021.

While the success rate might seem low by North Dakota standards – 70% success is a widely held benchmark – consider neighboring Minnesota. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 583,898 firearms deer licenses were sold in 2022, and hunters registered 137,034 deer – a success rate of 29.7%.

The Grand Forks Herald’s online Trophy Room gallery had a banner year for open-water fishing photos. Now we’re looking for photos of your big buck, or maybe a brace of grouse or mallards or an elk you shot in Montana.

Send those trophy photos to bdokken@gfherald.com, and we will publish them online in our Trophy Room gallery and occasionally in print, as space permits, in the Saturday Herald Northland Outdoors section.Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to fix an error in the opening date of hunting season.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>