Deer In Review

Doug Leier

By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.


Most Vikings and Twins fans can remember how their last season ended. In general, each team lost in the playoffs, but you’d probably have to stop and think about the details, such a which team the Vikings beat in the first round of the playoffs (Saints), and which team swept the Twins in the first round (Yankees).


If you had deer license in 2019, I’d venture to say the memories are much easier to recall. Snow, cold and standing crops all played a part in the final tally of last year’s deer season for each individual hunter.


You may have filled your tag an hour into the season on the first small doe that came by. Some hunters may have waited until the last second on the final day for the change at a large buck, and while statistically they may not have “filled their tag,” in their heart the season was still successful.


Before we dig into the numbers, don’t forget that  season circumstances can vary from one part of the state to another. Last fall the North Dakota likely had more standing corn than ever, and many of your favorite hunting spots were hit with a record fall moisture, making the field/road conditions some of the most challenging ever.


The 2019 deer season started out with an allocation of 65,500 licenses. From that number, the State Game and Fish Department’s post-season survey estimated that 57,949 licensees actually hunted. Those deer hunters took approximately 37,250 deer for an overall success rate of 64%. In addition, and each hunter spent just under 4.5 days in the field.


Here’s a more detailed breakdown:


  • Hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer was 64%.
  • Antlerless whitetail success was 58%.
  • Mule deer buck success was 78%.
  • Mule deer doe success was 79%.
  • Hunters with “any antlered” licenses had a success rate of 68%.
  • Hunters with “any antlerless” licenses had a success rate of 65%.

(Hunters with any antlered or any antlerless licenses generally harvest white-tailed deer, as these licenses are predominantly in units with mostly whitetails)


Gratis (landowner licenses)

Game and Fish issued 11,981 gratis licenses in 2019, and 9,767 hunters harvested 5,416 deer, for a success rate of 56%.



A total of 1,206 muzzleloader licenses were issued in 2019, and 1,040 hunters harvested 426 white-tailed deer (222 antlered, 204 antlerless). Hunter success was 41%.



A total of 27,582 archery licenses (24,902 resident, 2,680 nonresident) were issued in 2019. In total, 21,960 bowhunters harvested 8,978 deer (7,988 whitetails, 990 mule deer), for a success rate of 41%.


For the 2020 season, Game and Fish biologists are in the process of determining recommendations for licenses numbers. In addition to harvest rates and winter whitetails and spring mule deer aerial surveys, Game and Fish staff monitor other population indices to determine license numbers, including depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and department field staff.


Leier is an Outreach Biologist with the NDG&F Dept. 


Featured Photo: The 2019 deer season started out with the issuance of 65,500 licenses.  NDG&F Photo. 

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