The 2012 deer season saw the hunter success rate bounce back from an all-time low of 51 percent in 2011 to 63 percent. But that’s still below success rates in years past.

“The overall success rate is still below our long-term average of about 70 percent,” said Randy Kreil, Chief of the Wildlife Division for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Severe winters in 2008, 2009, and 2010 continued to have a noticeable effect on the number of whitetail deer living in the Peace Garden State. And while last year’s winter wasn’t terribly harsh, it lingered well into the spring, putting further stress on the state’s deer herd. As a result, North Dakota continued to reduce the number of firearm deer hunting licenses available. The state had more than 100,000 applicants for firearm deer hunting licenses, but had to turn away 44,000 hunters. Those who were lucky enough to draw a tag will again be limited to harvesting one deer during firearm season.

While mule deer were also adversely affected by the recent severe winters, officials are optimistic that numbers will bounce back. To help the population recover, in 2013 hunters won’t be allowed to harvest a doe in any primary mule deer unit. And it’s still illegal to hunt deer over bait in units 3C West of the Missouri River and in units 3E1, 3E2, 3F1 and 3F2.

Public Land
The Sheyenne National Grassland in Ransom County still offers the region’s largest piece of public land open to hunting (over 70,000 acres), and it holds its fair share of whitetails. Rolling sand hill grasslands and stands of aspen give deer plenty of hiding spots, while corridors along river bottoms grant deer access to alfalfa, corn and soybean fields. In addition, the PLOTS (Private Land Open to Sportsmen) program leases private property for public access. To view an interactive map of lands open for deer hunting in 2013, go to