Pronghorn populations are on the rebound in North Dakota. The pronghorn in western North Dakota suffered a string of tough winters back in the late 2000s. These tough winters resulted in low fawn recruitment and a large population loss. The next year, following the tough winters wildlife officials shutdown all pronghorn hunting in western North Dakota. In 2014 pronghorn hunting resumed but with much lower tag numbers. In the four years that followed only four pronghorn units were open to hunting. During that time frame, the state only issued around four hundred and fifty pronghorn tags a year. From 2018-2019 the state increased the pronghorn hunting to around one thousand four hundred permits. Likewise, in 2020 the state issued around one thousand eight hundred permits.
As the population continues to grow so does pronghorn hunting opportunity. Following the soft opening of four units in 2014, the state has slowly reopened units every year. This year there will be fifteen pronghorn hunting units open. Likewise, three units will be opened for the first time in years. Two units, 8A and 11A in southwestern North Dakota will open for the first time since 2009. Similarly, Unit 13A in northwestern North Dakota will open for the first time since 1993! This year the aerial surveys counted a six percent increase from last year.
“I wouldn’t say that we are not completely back — there are still two units that we haven’t opened up yet, south and west of the Missouri River. That’s probably the signal of when things are completely back. All in all, we’re seeing some really good things. Any time our survey indicates that a population of around 10,000 critters, that’s a good thing.”- Wildlife Chief Jeb Williams
Pronghorn Hunting in North Dakota
Prior to the harsh winters in the late 2000s, pronghorn herds in North Dakota handled sustainable harvests of around four thousand eight hundred animals a year. Its been a slow process but wildlife officials are seeing the population grow and are hopeful about the future. However, it may take quite a few more favorable years for the population to fully recover to its former levels. Seventy-four percent of hunters were successful in 2019. The hunt was considered an overall success even though it didn’t reach the Game and Fish’s goal of an eighty percent success rate. Last fall was excessively wet and lead to tougher hunting than usual. Pronghorn hunting in North Dakota is only available to residents for the time being.
Do you think pronghorn in North Dakota are on the rebound? Let us know in the comments!