WEST FARGO - North Dakota's 2016 deer gun season opens Nov. 4 at noon and as the saying goes, if you want to participate, you need a deer license, and if you want a license, you need to draw one in the lottery.
The first step to drawing a license in the lottery is applying by June 1, the 2016 deadline. While there is no advantage gained by applying through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department's website, or by filling out a paper application and mailing it in or even delivering it in person to the Game and Fish office in Bismarck, filing an online application sure helps speed up the process of preparing to hold the lottery drawing.
For the most part, the drawing is a true lottery in that everyone who applies has a chance. The people who have gone more years in a row without drawing a first-choice license do have more chances or better odds, because of bonus points that accumulate for each unsuccessful year.
This year, applicants in some units will have a bit better odds than last year, as 49,000 licenses are available to hunters, 5,725 more than last year.
Jeb Williams, Game and Fish wildlife chief, said population and harvest data indicate the state's deer population is stable to increasing, primarily due to seven years of reduced gun licenses combined with recent mild winters. "Consequently, a small increase in deer licenses will provide increased hunting opportunities, while continuing to encourage population growth," Williams said. "Most of the additional licenses are for antlered deer."
The mule deer population in the badlands increased for the fourth consecutive year, with numbers showing the spring mule deer index is up 21 percent from last year.
Williams said a conservative management approach will remain in the badlands, and for the fifth consecutive year, Game and Fish will not issue any antlerless mule deer licenses in units 4A, 4B and 4C.
However, for the first time since 2011, mule deer doe licenses are available in units 3B1, 3B2, 4D, 4E and 4F.
"Mule deer numbers are above the population objective and long-term average in certain areas, therefore a limited number of antlerless mule deer licenses are available in these units," Williams said.
The breakdown of licenses available for 2016 includes 2,550 for antlered mule deer, an increase of 675 from last year; 928 for muzzleloader, an increase of 100 from last year; and 225 restricted youth antlered mule deer licenses, an increase of 38 from last year.
New this year is an option that allows unsuccessful applicants to donate their refund to the Game and Fish Department Private Land Open to Sportsmen or PLOTS program. The donation is not tax deductible.
Proceeds from this donation fund would be focused on deer habitat and hunting access to deer habitat. The North Dakota State Legislature created this option in 2015 with nearly unanimous support.
Prospective hunters are also reminded that state law requires residents age 18 or older to prove residency on the application by submitting a valid North Dakota driver's license number or a North Dakota nondriver photo identification number. Applications cannot be processed without this information.
Online applications for regular deer gun, youth, muzzleloader, and resident gratis and nonresident landowner licenses are available through the Game and Fish Department's website at gf.nd.gov.
And remember, the deadline is June 1, which also applies to gratis license applicants who want to ensure they receive a license for any legal deer.