Deer Gun License Application Deadline Approaching

With North Dakota’s deer gun season license application deadline fast approaching, it’s a good time for a reminder to prospective hunters that the fastest and easiest way through the process is online via the state Game and Fish Department’s website.

This is especially true for people who are eligible for gratis licenses, as once you enter your land description into the online database, it’ll be stored there for you, eliminating the need to type it all in again next.

Just under 70 percent of gratis applicants submitted their application online last year, and about 87 percent of regular gun season applications came in through Game and Fish’s electronic system.

At this stage in the game, every hunter who converts from applying via a paper form to taking care of it online helps shorten the window of time between the application deadline and when the lottery drawing is held. And I know there are still a lot of potential hunters out there who have not yet completed their paper or online application, because a good share every year are either postmarked or electronically processed within 48 hours of the deadline, which this year is June 7.

The Game and Fish Department took one small step this year toward reducing the amount of paper processing by requiring that all nonresidents apply for their deer gun licenses online. Much like the phase-out of paper hunting and fishing licenses in 2016, conversion to all-electronic lottery applications will likely occur in the not-too-distant future as well.

Most everyone who does apply for a deer gun license this year will have slightly better odds in the lottery, assuming the number of people who apply remains the same, as the Game and Fish Department is allocating 5,500 more licenses than last year. The total of 54,000 is still not enough to provide a gun license to everyone who applies, but license numbers are headed in the right direction.

For 2017 that includes 2,750 antlered mule deer licenses, an increase of 200 from last year; 1,022 for muzzleloader, an increase of 94 from last year; and 245 restricted youth antlered mule deer, an increase of 20 from last year.

Game and Fish will issue mule deer doe licenses in units 4B and 4C for the first time since 2011. However, for the sixth consecutive year there are no mule deer doe licenses available in unit 4A, due to higher winter mortality which caused a slight decline in numbers from 2016.

Hunters who do get a license should have a good chance of filling their tag, too, if last year’s results are any indication. Overall hunter success was 66 percent in 2016. For whitetail buck the success rate was 72 percent, and for antlerless whitetail it was 60 percent.

Mule deer buck success was 89 percent, and antlerless mule deer was 78 percent.

Game and Fish issued 13,466 gratis licenses in 2016, and 11,369 hunters harvested 6,593 deer, for a success rate of 58 percent. Gratis applications received on or before the regular deer gun lottery application deadline qualify for an any-legal-deer license. As per state law, gratis applications received after the deadline will be processed based on licenses remaining after the lottery, and generally only antlerless licenses remain at that time.

A record 26,755 archery licenses (24,532 resident, 2,223 nonresident) were issued in 2016. In total, 22,071 bow hunters harvested 9,492 deer (8,686 whitetails, 806 mule deer), for a success rate of 43 percent.

North Dakota’s 2017 deer gun season opens Nov. 10 at noon and continues through Nov. 26. Again, the application deadline is June 7 and the Game and Fish website address is Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department.

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Doug Leier

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at

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