North Dakota Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

North Dakota's deer numbers have taken a significant dip, so much so that the state only offered 65,300 deer licenses to hunters this fall, 44,650 fewer than last year and the lowest since 1988.

North Dakota had been pushing antlerless hunting for a decade now to reduce deer populations that were over goal. Then, the state got hit with three very difficult winters in a row, in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11. And last year, epizootic hemorrhagic disease ravaged whitetail deer herds in western and southwestern hunting units.
Mulies? Not so good, either.

The mule deer population in North Dakota's Badlands was also stung by the three bad winters, with the lowest years of fawn production observed from 2009 to 2011. Survey numbers indicate mule deer in the Badlands are down 23 percent from last year and 52 percent below 2007.

As a result, no antlerless mule deer licenses are available for the 2012 deer season in units 3B1, 3B2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, and 4F. In all, the number of mule deer licenses available for 2012 are: 1,200 antlered mule deer, a decrease of 3,350 mule deer licenses from last year; 1,282 for muzzleloader, down 826 from last year; and 120 restricted youth antlered mule deer, a decrease of 130 from last year.

Hunters are able to draw one license for the deer gun season and one for the muzzleloader season, and purchase an archery license. Unlike the past several years, however, Kreil says a hunter won't be able to receive more than one license for the deer gun season.

With less hunting and some help from Mother Nature, deer herds can regenerate themselves in two to three years. North Dakota's taking care of the hunting part of the equation. Time will tell if Mother Nature cooperates, but she already helped out last winter, which was relatively mild. North Dakota was dry this spring, but not too dry, so fawn production may be up when the surveys are done this year.

The Midwestern Regional Report
_Winter in the Midwest was mild to nonexistent, and deer herds came into spring in very good shape. However, drought could be an issue in some states. "Hard and soft mast crops will likely be compromised, and clover and row crop production is threatened by dry conditions," says Iowa deer biologist Tom Litchfield. In parts of Indiana and Illinois, some farmers were forced to plow under failing corn or chop it up for cattle feed in midsummer.

Deer numbers are stable to growing in most locales, though disease is taking a toll in several states. North Dakota is still reeling from last year's EHD outbreak, CWD is spreading within Illinois and Wisconsin, bovine tuberculosis is still a concern in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and Nebraska and Missouri experienced EHD outbreaks this summer._

Top Trophy Zones
IL: Pike, Adams, Brown, and Fulton counties. KS: Units 11, 12, and 16.
KY: Christian, Grayson, Hardin, Hart, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties.
MI: Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties. MN: Zone 3. This fall will be the third year of antler-point restrictions here.
MO: Saline, Putnam, Calloway, Chariton, and Cooper counties.
NE: Since 2005, hunters have taken 44 record-book mule deer bucks in Cherry County, including a 171 2⁄8 typical in 2010 and a 210 4⁄8 non-typical in 2005.
OH: Muskingum County. WI: Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Waupaca counties. Between 2005 and 2010, the Dairy State led all other states with 383 Boone and Crockett entries.