North Dakota’s 2023 deer season is set, with 53,400 licenses available to hunters, down 10,800 from last year.
In addition, muzzleloader licenses decreased by 146 and restricted youth antlered mule deer licenses by 145.
Residents age 11, 12 and 13 who hold a youth antlerless white-tailed deer license are no longer restricted to the youth deer season. A new state law allows this license to be valid during the regular deer gun season.
North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife division chief Casey Anderson said population, harvest and survey data indicate the state’s deer population is decreasing, with the eastern most hunting units suffering the biggest loss.
“The severity of winter conditions this year was record setting, particularly in the eastern half of the state,” Anderson said. “Consequently, there will be fewer deer licenses allocated in 2023; the lowest number of licenses available since 2016. Conservative license allocations are intended to maintain hunting opportunities while continuing to encourage population growth.”
High quality deer habitat is not as abundant as in the past, Anderson said, which has limited the potential for population recovery following the severe winter conditions the state just experienced. For example, deer-gun harvest densities in the Red River Valley are down about 90% from what was harvested in 2005. This, he said, is due in part to those hunting units having lost more than approximately 70% of CRP grass cover and other key habitat features.
“If CRP contracts continue to expire, by 2026, 85% of the once 3.4 million acres that were present in 2007 will be lost,” Anderson added. “Habitat does not have to be CRP but needs to fulfill winter and fawning habitat needs in particular for numbers to bounce back effectively.”
The recently completed mule deer survey showed western North Dakota’s mule deer population is 29% lower than last year.
North Dakota’s 2023 deer gun season opens Nov. 10 at noon and continues through Nov. 26.
Applicants for regular deer gun, gratis, youth and muzzleloader can apply online through the Game and Fish Department’s website at gf.nd.gov.
The deadline for applying is June 7.
A general game and habitat license is required when applying for a deer license. If the applicant has not already purchased one for the 2023-24 season, the license will be added to their cart upon checkout. The applicant has the option of having the general game and habitat license refunded if their deer license is not drawn in the lottery.
Gratis applicants who have previously applied online will automatically have their land description carried forward to this year’s application. However, any changes with land descriptions from last year’s application must be made prior to submitting the 2023 application.
Gratis applications received on or before the regular deer gun lottery application deadline will qualify for an any-legal-deer license. As per state law, gratis applications received after the deadline will be processed based on licenses remaining after the lottery. Generally, only antlerless licenses remain.
Total deer licenses are determined by harvest rates, aerial surveys, depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff.