Hunters who were fortunate enough to draw a North Dakota deer gun license this fall should have a decent shot at bagging a deer, officials say.
In that sense, the deer season outlook is similar to the past couple of years, said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.
North Dakota's 16 1/2-day deer gun season opens at noon Friday and continues through Sunday, Nov. 26.
"Deer numbers appear to be OK in most areas," Williams said. "So, I think for people that have licenses, that have a deer tag, I think they're going to like what they see."
For the second time in as many years, Game and Fish this year increased the number of deer gun licenses available around the state. The department offered 54,500 licenses this year, up from 49,000 deer gun tags last year.
Before last year, license numbers had been on a steady decline since 2007, Williams said. Game and Fish issued a record 145,250 deer gun tags in 2004, and hunters shot 98,500 deer for a success rate of 74 percent.
The early 2000s likely will go down as "the good old days," and they aren't likely to return anytime soon as acreage enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program declines and less habitat is available for deer and other wildlife.
Given that reality, the department continues to take a conservative approach to the number of deer gun tags it makes available, Williams said.
About 40,000 people applied for deer gun licenses this year and didn't draw a tag, he said.
"The trend is going in the right direction, but we know there's a lot of people that would like to be participating that aren't going to have the chance," Williams said.