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Mule deer buck

Drawing a Deer License in 2020

Authors and Contributors

All hunters who applied for a deer gun license in 2020 did so electronically.

The format used to present the results of the deer drawing – plus drawings for pronghorn and spring and fall turkey – is consistent with the last two years.

The tables provided show the first-choice results in the first lottery. Using deer hunting unit 2B for any antlered deer as an example, the numbers read like this: 1,052 hunters with zero bonus points applied for an any antlered deer license and 21 were successful in drawing a license (21/1,052); 717 hunters with one bonus point applied and 29 were successful (29/717); 586 hunters with two bonus points applied and 47 were successful (586/47); and on it goes.

In short, the tables show the results for those hunters with the same number of bonus points applying for a particular license in a particular hunting unit.

It’s important to note that the deer lottery results do not include the 1% of licenses state law requires the Game and Fish Department to make available for nonresident applicants every year.

Those nonresidents who do apply for a deer gun license in North Dakota compete only against other nonresident hunters for that 1%.

Also of note, the results in the 2020 deer gun lottery show only those hunters who were actually in the drawing, not those hunters who bought bonus points and had no intention of hunting deer last fall.

How the Lottery Works

There are always questions concerning the Game and Fish Department’s lottery.

Using deer as the example, though turkey works the same way, this is how it works.

If you fail to draw your first license choice in any given year, you receive a bonus point. You do not have to apply in the same unit, or for the same deer type each year, to qualify. You get an additional bonus point each year you apply and do not receive your first license choice. You maintain your accumulated bonus points as long as you apply in the first drawing at least once every two years.

You receive additional chances in the drawing for each bonus point accumulated. For points one through three, you are entered in the drawing two times the number of points you have. So, if you have two points you would get four additional chances to be drawn, compared to a person who got his or her first choice the previous year. If you’re both competing for the same license, you have five chances, he or she has one.

When you accumulate four or more points, the number of additional chances is determined by cubing your bonus points. So, when you have four points, you will be in the drawing 64 additional times, 125 times if you have five points, and so on. Bonus points are accumulated as long as you do not draw your first license choice and apply in the first drawing at least every other year. You do not receive bonus points in years you do not apply.

Each drawing is still random, but the more bonus points you have, the better your odds. When you receive your first license choice, you lose your bonus points and start over. Bonus points can only be earned, or used, in the first drawing for each species in each year.

The license lottery consists of four separate drawings, one for each choice on the application. First, we hold a drawing for the first unit/first deer choice. When those are issued, we draw for the first unit/second deer choice, then the second unit/first deer choice, and finally the second unit/second deer choice.

2020 Lottery Stats


  • 79,999 – Number of people – not including 12,130 gratis applicants – who applied for deer gun lottery licenses, up from 78,582 in 2019.
  • 53.11 – Percent of successful applicants, excluding gratis and nonresidents, for deer gun and muzzleloader licenses.
  • 18 – Maximum number of bonus points for any applicant (nonresident mule deer buck applicants).
  • 12,446 – Applicants with four or more bonus points.
  • 13 – Percent of applicants with four or more bonus points.
  • 44.66 – Percent of applicants with four or more bonus points who applied for a muzzleloader buck license.


  • 6,237 – Number of spring turkey licenses available to hunters, up from 5,662 in 2019.
  • 76.2 – Percent of successful applicants for the spring season.
  • 73 – Percent of applicants who received their first license choice for the spring season.
  • 3,785 – Number of fall turkey licenses available, up from 3,660 in 2019.
  • 73.8 – Percent of successful applicants for the fall season.
  • 68.8 – Percent of applicants who received their first license choice for the fall season.


  • 15 – Number of hunting units open in a limited pronghorn season.
  • 1,795 – Number of licenses available to hunters, up 460 from 2019.
  • 15,319 – Number of people who applied for available licenses, up 2,391 from 2019.

2020 Lottery Notes

For the fifth year in a row, the number of deer gun licenses made available to hunters increased in 2020.

Here’s a quick look:

  • 2016 – 49,000 deer gun licenses.
  • 2017 – 54,500 deer gun licenses.
  • 2018 – 55,150 deer gun licenses.
  • 2019 – 65,500 deer gun licenses.
  • 2020 – 69,050 deer gun licenses.

Drawing a buck license in 2020 was, like most years, not easy. Randy Meissner, Game and Fish Department licensing manager, said after 11,845 resident gratis licenses and 690 nonresident licenses were subtracted from the overall license allocation, just 28,598 buck licenses were available for the 67,665 hunters who applied for them as their first choice in the lottery.

For the seventh year in a row, following hard winters that significantly impacted the state’s population, Game and Fish made available 1,795 pronghorn licenses in 2020, or 460 more than 2019.

Fifteen pronghorn hunting units were open in 2020, three more than 2019.