New data shows mule deer in North Dakota are on the rise. During a recent aerial survey, wildlife officials counted a seven percent increase in numbers compared to last year. Mule deer numbers are also at a twenty-two percent increase above the long term average in the state. The aerial surveys have been taking place since the early 1950s. During these surveys, wildlife officials fly over twenty-four study areas in the North Dakota Badlands. This year Biologists counted two thousand three hundred and sixty-four mule deer in the area. A string of bad winters a decade ago resulted in a large loss in the mule deer population. However, the last three winters have been relatively mild. The mild winters and good food and water sources have led to the increase.

“The mild winter definitely helped,” State Wildlife Chief Jeb Williams said. “Always does for critters in North Dakota.” “it’s not uncommon when we see a slight increase (in population) to stay conservative for a year before bumping licenses.” Williams added.

Potential for more Hunting Opportunities

With mule deer populations on the rise comes the potential for more hunting opportunities. Hunting doe mule deer in North Dakota was banned in 2012 and only reopened in 2017. The current population is above North Dakota’s management objective. The herd is believed to now be at a level that can handle more hunters. Mule deer hunting licenses have stayed steady on average across the state. However, licenses in Unit 4B are up while licenses in Unit 4D have been reduced to balance out the deer harvest.

“Mule deer have recovered nicely across the Badlands following the winters of a decade ago,” Big Game Management Supervisor Bruce Stillings said. “But long-term challenges remain for further population growth, including predators and weather patterns, and changes in habitat.”

With mule deer in North Dakota on the rise, it may be the perfect time to hunt up there. Are you going to look into hunting North Dakota? Let us know in the comments.

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