NDGF revisits deer license goals.

Vollmer

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By: Brad Dokken, Northland Outdoors




GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is drafting new deer license goals for the next five years, and fewer deer gun tags likely will be the reality for the foreseeable future.
The days when Game and Fish offered more than 100,000 tags--while still achieving the 70 percent success rate that is the benchmark for deer hunting in the state--are history.
The current goals, in place since 2009, call for a deer population high enough to accommodate 124,000 gun licenses.
"License goals will be lower," said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.
Williams and Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand offered an update on the license goal process Monday night during the department's spring advisory board meeting for District 4 of northeast North Dakota. Game and Fish is mandated to hold the meetings twice a year in each of the state's eight advisory board districts.
About 30 people attended Monday night's meeting in the UND Memorial Union.
Key indicators
Williams said the department uses five key indicators--five-year average harvest rates, regional license densities, regional aerial survey data, regional hunter observation rates and biological/social factors such as disease and deer-vehicle collisions--to set license goals.
The challenge, he said, is to set license numbers at a level that maintains the 70 percent success rate North Dakota hunters have come to expect. Habitat loss resulting from expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts, more land being developed for agriculture and the oil boom out west means the landscape no longer can support as many deer as it could in the early 2000s, when Game and Fish routinely issued more than 100,000 deer gun licenses.
Last year, Game and Fish offered 48,000 deer gun tags statewide, the lowest number since 1980.
"Most hunters would like to see more deer," Williams said. "Seventy percent has been determined by the public. We could go to 60 percent and give more opportunities, but there would be more unhappy people.
"Some of the units are going to be managed at a lot lower level because that's what they can sustain."
Elusive goal
Even with fewer deer tags available, hunter success hasn't reached 70 percent since 2009, Williams said. In Unit 2B of eastern North Dakota, Game and Fish last year issued 1,100 any antlered licenses, and hunters had 63 percent success. There were 900 antlerless tags available in 2B last year, and 66 percent of hunters filled their tags.
The goal, by comparison, is to achieve 70 percent with 5,000 buck licenses and 5,000 antlerless licenses in 2B, Williams said.
Those numbers no longer are realistic.
"We haven't determined license numbers for this year, but I can tell you this--it's going to be lower than last year," Williams said.
Responding to a question about closing the season for a year to let the deer herd rebuild, Steinwand, the department director, said the idea has been discussed, but it's an unlikely scenario.
"We want to manage (the season) for people," Steinwand said. "Deer licenses are our biggest revenue. We've lost at least $1 million a year the past few years" because of license reductions.
"It's not always about the killing," he added. "It's about the opportunity to go out with friends and family."
In hindsight, Steinwand said the department was too aggressive in killing deer in years such as 2010, when depredation complaints soared to nearly 500. He said the department was under considerable pressure from the Legislature to reduce deer numbers--or else.
The strategy coincided with a series of severe winters to produce the bleak deer population scenario hunters face today.
"I wish we would have backed off and taken a hit from the Legislature," Steinwand said. "We were too aggressive."
Williams said wildlife staff will have a better handle on 2015-19 deer license goals by this fall. Given the habitat challenges, managing for more deer on the landscape isn't a likely scenario.
"We'll have to see where this does end," he said. "I don't think anybody really knows."
Other topics
The first part of Monday night's two-hour meeting was devoted to questions from the audience, and topics included everything from the lack of winter aerial deer surveys because there wasn't enough snow, to coyotes, trapping and the lack of prairie chicken management in Grand Forks County.
There also was the annual question of why Game and Fish doesn't implement protected slot limits on walleyes in an effort to produce bigger fish.
Randy Hiltner, northeast district fisheries supervisor for Game and Fish in Devils Lake, said surveys have shown 84 percent of anglers would rather catch five 15-inch walleyes than two 20-inch walleyes.
Studies have shown a 16- to 20-inch slot limit would only increase the number of 20 inch walleyes by 5 percent to 10 percent, he said.
"There are a lot of consumptive anglers out there who like to eat those small walleyes," Hiltner said. "The real question is why do you want a slot limit imposed on you if you don't need it?"
 


dust in the wind

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I read this under the resources area of the site. Interesting that this isn't posted on the G&F site that I could find. I guess if I get a rifle tag, it's a bonus. I have my bow tag (which showed up today) :)
 

arrowdem

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very interesting read.. opened my eyes a bit, looks bleak for my rifle tag for the 3rd year in a row but yes i have my bow tag in hand already also! also that bit about the slot limit in north dakota was a good one? why put on in place if its not needed based on harvest data.. makes sense to me, good read and good find bckhntr
 

dust in the wind

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I can't take credit for finding the article, Vollmer found it.

It will be interesting to see how the tag numbers are for this year.
 

Vollmer

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Thanks for posting. I enjoy bow hunting better, so I'm not terribly bummed. In all honesty it would be ok if they shut the season down for a year or two and let the deer rebound.
 


Buckmaster81

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I think they should manage for opportunity rather than success rate. I would like to see shorter seasons and rifle season moved away from the rut.
 

KDM

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I sent this email to Jeb Williams today....
On Apr 22, 2015, at 6:01 PM

Good Afternoon Mr. Williams, was the Game and Fish able to perform any aerial whitetail deer surveys this past winter??

Thank You,


Kirk


Here is his reply.....

Kirk,

Due to lack of snow, we were not able to fly any of our survey blocks. A double edged sword in that it was a great winter with lack of snow but that lack of snow also meant a lack of data collection. Jeb

Sent from my iPhone

Williams said the department uses five key indicators--five-year average harvest rates, regional license densities, regional aerial survey data, regional hunter observation rates and biological/social factors such as disease and deer-vehicle collisions--to set license goals.

Apparently they aren't using any regional aerial survey data as they didn't collect any. So that means tag numbers are being determined by subjective data. Subjective data means an individuals personal agenda can skew or make the data to fit what they want. This is NOT science, this is politics. Without sound scientific data we as hunters are at the mercy of public opinion and we are not a majority. Keep this in mind when you get declined for a tag.


 

deleted_account

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I sent this email to Jeb Williams today....
On Apr 22, 2015, at 6:01 PM

Good Afternoon Mr. Williams, was the Game and Fish able to perform any aerial whitetail deer surveys this past winter??

Thank You,


Kirk


Here is his reply.....

Kirk,

Due to lack of snow, we were not able to fly any of our survey blocks. A double edged sword in that it was a great winter with lack of snow but that lack of snow also meant a lack of data collection. Jeb

Sent from my iPhone

Williams said the department uses five key indicators--five-year average harvest rates, regional license densities, regional aerial survey data, regional hunter observation rates and biological/social factors such as disease and deer-vehicle collisions--to set license goals.

Apparently they aren't using any regional aerial survey data as they didn't collect any. So that means tag numbers are being determined by subjective data. Subjective data means an individuals personal agenda can skew or make the data to fit what they want. This is NOT science, this is politics. Without sound scientific data we as hunters are at the mercy of public opinion and we are not a majority. Keep this in mind when you get declined for a tag.



That's funny. They fly 2 surveys a year in mule deer country snow or no snow and are able to get an idea of deer numbers. Granted that's a much smaller area but that seems like a cheap copout of an excuse...
 

Vollmer

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That's disheartening news. I know we didnt get much snow, but it did snow. Doesn't seem like a valid answer imho.
 

dust in the wind

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Thanks for the info KDM.

Maybe my tinfoil is a little too tight here but I can see it playing out this way.


They have reduced tag #'s for rifle/muzzleloader for 2015. More people get turned down which results in more complaints. We will have an all time record sales of archery tags and they will then say bowhunter success has reached an all time high and somehow make the #'s play out that there's a biological reason for needing to change the system to what they wanted for this year.




There's been many other suggestions that could have been implemented that might have helped without changing the whole system.




At least they are admitting they were too agressive in past years. Doesn't do us any good now though.
 


shorthairsrus

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Words coming out of mouth both ways ---- 1. money issue 2. yet we want to provide an opportunity. IMO it goes back to what they did back in the 70s --- MANAGE the DOES That is your key to success. Throw your continuing education out the door; the things you have learned in the last 10 years will not work.
 

KDM

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It gets better guys. All of you have access to the game and fish annual reports that include these so called surveys. There are LOTS AND LOTS of "DID NOT FLY" The game and fish hasn't flown over my hunting unit in over 12 years. Yet they keep telling me they know what the deer population in my unit is doing based on hunter harvest surveys, (can be skewed), deer auto collisions (only those reported), Hunter observations (whatever those are), license densities (These are licence numbers from past years that they determine based on these same goofy factors for each region), social factors (that's the scary one for me), and disease. What?? They can't tell me how many deer I have in my unit, how the hell can they tell me the disease rates of a population they can't even define???? I encourage all of you to get copies of the annual reports and see how many times the game and fish has done a white tail aerial survey for your units. I think you will be surprised and angered and how absent this survey data is and yet you are being told that it's not only being done, but it is a key indicator that is used for determining tag numbers.In order to have a valid survey, you need to cover the exact same ground, at the exact same time, for several years to even be able to get a statistically predictive model for populations. This is basic statistics that is taught at every university across the country. Being told that aerial surveys are key indicators for deer populations, but having only one being done for my unit in the past 12 years is infuriating to say the least. Here is a copy of the cover page.....

NORTH DAKOTA STATE GAME AND FISH DEPARTMENT Wildlife Division Project W-67-R-48 Phase C, Big Game Investigations Study No. C-I:

DEER POPULATION STUDIES Job No. C-I-1: White-tailed Deer Census (2007-2008)
Job No. C-I-2: 2008 Mule Deer Census
Job No. C-I-3: 2007 Deer Gun Season and Harvest
Job No. C-I-3: 2007 Deer Bow Season and Harvest (Supplement)
Job No. C-I-4: 2007 Deer Muzzleloader Season and Harvest
Job No. C-I-5: 2007 Youth Deer Gun Season (Supplement)

Terry Steinwand Director Submitted by Bill Jensen, Roger Johnson,and Bruce Stillings Big Game Biologists July 2008 Report No. A-177

and here is a copy of part of the report about the aerial surveys...............

White-tailed Deer Population Density Monitoring Block Survey

White-tailed deer monitoring blocks, ranging in size from approximately 800 to 1290 square miles, have been assigned to five of the seven Coteau Hills management subunits (overlapping 8 hunting units). Each of these subunits were larger than 1200 square miles, therefore monitoring blocks have been positioned over representative habitat and terrain of each subunit. In 2004, six smaller monitoring block encompassing 16 townships, or 576 square miles, were established in the central portions of the six Slope Hunting Units.Methods for the winter aerial inspection of a monitoring block are the same as for the regular trend survey. Deer numbers, group size and geographic location are recorded to the nearest square mile (i.e., section).Snowfall and snow depth data are provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Daily weather conditions are monitored on their various websites(e.g., www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/nsa/index.html ).

In June 2005, the area within each survey unit was recalculated using GIS technology. Updated estimates of the areas are provided in Tables 1 through 10.RESULTSSnow Conditions During the Winter of 2007-2008Due to very poor snow conditions, no white-tailed deer winter survey units were flown. Some flights were made to get an index of moose and elk populations, but recorded deer numbers observed during these flights were deemed of little value.

DISCUSSION: A comparative analysis of past population data is essential to providing meaningful population trend information from the data gathered during the period covered by this report. An evaluation of these data is ongoing and will require extensive review.

White-tailed Deer Herd Status

The white-tailed deer herd status for each major management unit is presented in the same sequence as that found elsewhere in this report.

No census areas or monitoring block were surveyed for white-tailed deer in 2007-2008. Badlands Management UnitSub-unit 0-1 to 0-4No current data (Table 1).
Slope Management UnitSub-units 1-1 to 1-6No current data (Table 2).
Missouri River Management UnitSub-units 2-1 to 2-10No current data (Table 3).
Coteau Hills Management UnitNorthwest Coteau Sub-unit (3-1)No current data (Table 4).
North Central Coteau Sub-unit (3-2 to 3-3)No current data (Table 4).
Northeast Coteau Sub-unit (3-4)No current data (Table 4).
South-central Coteau Sub-unit (3-5 to 3-7)No current data (Table 4).
Souris-Des Lacs Management UnitSouris-Des Lacs Sub-unit (4-1 to 4-3)No current data (Table 5).
Turtle Mountains Management UnitOn February 15, 2008, the 93 square mile moose study was surveyed and a total of 672 deer (7.2 deer per square mile; hunting unit 1) (Table 6). A total of 43 moose were also reported (17 bulls, 17 cows, and 9 calves). Three coyotes and one red fox were also observed. It should be noted that biologists believed many of the deer that usually winter within this survey unit had not moved into the Turtle Mountains off the prairie due to mild winter conditions. Snow cover in the Turtle Mountains was one of the poorest that Roger Johnson could remember for the last 30-years.
Devils Lake Management UnitsNo current data (Table 7).
Sheyenne-James Management UnitNorth of I-94 Sub-units (7-1 and 7-2)No current data (Table 8).
South of I-94 Sub-units (7-3, 7-4 and 7-5)No current data (Table 8).
Pembina Hills Management UnitSurveys were attempted in the Pembina Hills management unit February 18, 2008. A total of 454 deer were observed on a portion of the approximately 289 square mile triangle moose and elk survey unit, Pembina River, and that portion of the Tongue River between highways 5 and 66 before the flight was terminated. Additionally, no moose, 147 elk (41 bulls [11 spike and 30 branch-antlered bulls], 106 cows and calves), 110 turkeys, 4 coyotes, and one red fox were reported. Observation conditions were considered very poor (Table 9). .
Red River Valley Management UnitNorthern Valley (9-1)No current data (Table 10).
Central Valley (9-2)No current data (Table 10).
Southern Valley (9-3)No current data (Table 10).
Additional SurveysOn February 12, Roger Johnson and Jeff Faught surveyed a 600-acre fenced enclosure on Camp Grafton under very poor snow conditions. A total of 40 deer were sighted inside the 600-acre enclosure, and another 6 were sighted just outside the fence. A total of 4 turkeys were also observed.On February 12, Roger Johnson and Jeff Faught surveyed the area in the greater Fargo area between Cass Co. HWY 20 and the moth of the Wild Rice River. A total of 170 deer and 32 turkeys were observed during this aerial survey (Cass Co. HWY 22 to HWY 20: 26 deer; Cass Co. HWY 20 to 12th Avenue North: 81 deer and 25 turkeys; 12th Avenue North to I94: 14 deer; I94 to 52nd Avenue South: 47 deer; and 52nd Avenue South to Wild Rice River: 2 deer and 7 turkeys).

SUMMARY
1. Weather and snow conditions did not permit aerial surveying for white-tailed deer in the state.
2. An effort was made to survey for elk in the Pembina Hills and moose in the Turtle Mountains.
3. Limited winter aerial survey work was done on Camp Grafton and the greater Fargo area.
4. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web site continues to be a valuable asset for monitoring snow conditions around the state

Please notice the verbiage in the DISCUSSION section and draw your own conclusions.
 
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raider

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wow... maybe they (g&f) should see if they can get a letter on the next stage coach heading to the southern colonies to see how they count the deer who do not self report in snow free areas...
 

KDM

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Wow, doesn't even come close to how I feel about this. I have copies of several of these reports and they all say pretty much the same thing. I just provided a page or two from the 2007-2008 report. What these reports show is that there is no usable objective population data being taken for white tail deer year after year after year after year and this year is NO exception. Yet at every advisory meeting they tout these aerial surveys that they don't fly. They do ground/road surveys for pheasants, waterfowl, and other game snow or no snow.........why not white tails?????

Like I said before, I HIGHLY encourage every person out there that enjoys hunting white tail deer in any capacity, to get copies of these reports and start asking questions.
 
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