Save the Best for Last

Nick Simonson

By Nick Simonson

While referred to in some crowds as “desperation weekend,” the final three-day stretch of the North Dakota firearms deer season can often be the very best as changing environmental conditions, increased rut activity and decreased pressure on the landscape can align to provide some excellent hunting.  Don’t give up hope or fall into that dejected mindset just yet, as some ideal conditions are setting up for the season finale.

Full Moon, Fine Forecast

With the November full moon falling on Fri. Nov. 19, the pull of the celestial object will be at its height for fish and game all weekend, including its noted influence on deer movements.  The effects of the slight tweak in gravity and all-night light will have deer up and about in conjunction with their annual rut activities, making them a bit more exhausted and possibly distracted, providing for a good chance at a close encounter and a season-ending shot, particularly at dawn and dusk which coincide with the moon setting and rising. 

Additionally, following yet another windy week, the front half of the final weekend forecast shows extended periods of calm conditions throughout the region, with light winds not exceeding 10 miles per hour in some areas all day. These quiet times, which allow deer to hear better in their environments, will also keep them on their feet and moving, as opposed to hunkered down from the gales they’ve dealt with over the past fortnight. With calm settling in on Friday and Saturday, hunters will have good conditions to sit or spot-and-stalk those rutting deer.  Winds will return to the region on Sunday, however.

Rutting With Regularity

With the warm summer that extended into fall, rut activities were limited coming into the firearms deer season, but as temperatures have cooled on those strong northwest winds and some snowfall has occurred, a great deal more of those behaviors have been observed with the shift in day length.  Bucks are chasing does with regularity, scrapes are well-established and the process of begetting the next generation of deer is in full swing. Along with decadal shifts in climate and weather patterns, it seems these processes are bumping back later into the season, providing final weekend hunters a chance to be in on all the excitement if they have not tagged out yet, according to Chief Conservation Officer Kip Adams of the National Deer Association.

“Stay with it. North Dakota’s season ends at a very appropriate time in November when there’s still lots of deer movement, lots of deer activity. Anything can happen in November, so even if you have not been seeing that deer you’ve been looking for, do not give up now because that could all change in an instant,” Adams encourages.

A Drop in Hunter Numbers

Finally, it is likely that many hunters have already tagged out at this point, reducing the population of orange-clad individuals on the landscape going into the final days of the firearms season.  The mere fact that the end of the season is here means many are already done with their rifle-based adventures, and for those that remain, the literal pressure is off as fewer flock to those places where deer reside, while only the proverbial sort of stress of getting their deer remains. 

With less hunters on the landscape in the final days, and reduced pressure on public lands, those sportsmen still out there have a better chance of finding places all to themselves. With less human movement often comes more deer movement, but hunters should keep the basics in mind as the season draws to a close, according to Big Game Biologist Jason Smith with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.

“Those tags that we issue provide opportunity and along those lines one of the biggest limiting factors is access. Public land is obviously very limited in North Dakota, that’s why it is important to treat it with the respect that it deserves, just like you would treat access to private land appropriately, as well as the landowners. Be courteous, use common sense, respect the public land that we have, and treat others using public land like you would want to be treated,” Smith stresses.

With the combination of the weekend’s full moon and calm conditions, deer movement and rutting activity at its peak, and generally less hunting pressure on the ground in this final weekend of the North Dakota firearms season, hunters have much to look forward to, turning the specter of desperation into a dream scenario for anyone who enjoys the hunt.

Featured Photo: Up All Night, Chase All Day.  Bucks are in the prime stretch of the rut, and the full moon will keep them moving round-the-clock during the final weekend of ND’s firearms deer season.  They are more susceptible to grunts and bleat calls at this time, and just a little less wary. Simonson Photo.

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