Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Pronghorn Survey Begins

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual aerial pronghorn survey will begin July 1 and is scheduled to be completed within two weeks.

 

During the survey period, people could notice low-flying small airplanes over some parts of western North Dakota.

 

The survey determines pronghorn abundance, herd demographics and fawn production. This data is used to set the number of licenses for fall hunting season.

 

Last year, biologists surveyed 16,664 square miles, counting and classifying 9,201 pronghorn for a population estimate of 9,845 animals. Survey results indicated the fawn-to-doe ratio was 61 fawns per 100 does, which was equal to the long-term average. The buck-to-doe ratio of 38 bucks per 100 does was above the population objective.

Spring Mule Deer Survey Complete

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its annual spring mule deer survey in April, and results indicate western North Dakota’s mule deer population is up 7% from last year and 22% above the long-term average.

 

Biologists counted 2,364 mule deer in 267.3 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 8.8 deer per square mile.

 

Big game management supervisor Bruce Stillings said the population is above objective and remains at a level able to support more hunting opportunities in the northern badlands.

 

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

 

The spring mule deer survey is used to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands. It is conducted after the snow has melted and before the trees begin to leaf out, providing the best conditions for aerial observation of deer. Biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 study areas since the 1950s.

Spring Mule Deer Survey Begins April 1

The state Game and Fish Department’s annual spring aerial mule deer survey is set to begin April 1 in western North Dakota. Weather permitting, the survey takes about two weeks to complete.

 

During the survey period, people could notice low-flying small airplanes over some parts of the badlands.

 

Game and Fish biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 badlands study areas since the 1950s. The purpose of the survey is to determine a population index to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 90,000 Canada geese in the state.

Andy Dinges, Department migratory game bird biologist, said North Dakota experienced relatively mild weather in fall and early winter, but a few harsh cold fronts in early November and mid-December pushed some birds south for winter.

“Particularly, the cold snap we experienced during the first and second weeks of November moved a lot of birds south of us earlier than normal and we struggled to build up great numbers after this,” Dinges said.

During the recent survey, an estimated 50,000 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 17,500 were observed on Lake Sakakawea, which still had substantial open water on the lower portion of the lake. In addition, about 22,500 Canada geese were observed on Nelson Lake in Oliver County.

Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 4,200 mallards were tallied statewide, most of which were recorded on Nelson Lake.

Lake Sakakawea officially iced-over Jan. 11, just days after the aerial survey was completed.

The 10-year average (2010-19) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 100,500 Canada geese and 22,000 mallards.

All states participate in the midwinter survey during the same time frame, to reduce the possibility of counting birds more than once.

Fall Mule Deer Survey Completed

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s fall mule deer survey indicated another year of good fawn production.

 

Biologists counted 2,218 mule deer in the aerial survey in October. The ratios of 41 bucks per 100 does, and 84 fawns per 100 does, were similar to last year.

 

“Overall, there was good fawn production and stable buck-to-doe ratios at or near their long-term averages,” said Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor, Dickinson.

 

The fall aerial survey, conducted specifically to study demographics, covers 24 study areas and 306.3 square miles in western North Dakota. Biologists also survey the same study areas in the spring of each year to determine deer abundance.

Sampling Data Available

Anglers looking for a more in-depth look into many of North Dakota’s fisheries will have that chance soon on the state Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

 

Jerry Weigel, fisheries production/development section supervisor, said beginning in early December, anglers will be able to view the most recent fisheries sampling data on those waters surveyed, which is the same data biologists use to make management decisions.

 

The various sampling surveys, for example, provide some insight into the sizes of fish in a lake and general population trends.

 

This most recent data will be available online for those lakes surveyed. Weigel said Game and Fish doesn’t have the personnel to survey all of the nearly 450 active lakes every year, but the majority of the better fishing waters are monitored annually.

 

Weigel said sampling data complements the other information – driving directions, contour maps, fish species and boat ramp availability – already provided on the website for all active fisheries.

Spring Mule Deer Survey Complete

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its annual spring mule deer survey in April, and results indicate western North Dakota’s mule deer population is similar to last year, and 45 percent above the long-term average.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND     Game and Fish

 

Biologists counted 2,540 mule deer in 245.8 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 10.3 deer per square mile, compared to 10.9 in 2017.

 

Big game management supervisor Bruce Stillings said mule deer in the badlands have recovered nicely following the winters of 2009-11, which led to record low fawn production and a population index low of 4.6 mule deer per square mile in 2012.

 

“The population recovery is due to no antlerless harvest for four years combined with milder winter conditions during 2012-2016, which led to good fawn production since 2013,” Stillings said. “However, the long-term health of the population will depend on maintaining high quality habitat. Rangeland conditions are in tough shape in the badlands due to drought conditions, and could have a negative impact on fawn production this summer.”

 

The 2018 survey results show that hunting opportunities, according to Stillings, can increase slightly in all badlands units except 4A, which has been slower to recover than the rest of the badlands units. “There are localized areas that have very high mule deer densities and have exceeded landowner tolerance levels,” Stillings said.

 

The spring mule deer survey is used to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands. It is conducted after the snow has melted and before the trees begin to leaf out, providing the best conditions for aerial observation of deer. Biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 study areas since the 1950s.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 135,000 Canada geese in the state.

 

Andy Dinges, migratory game bird biologist, said that number likely would have been higher, but cold weather in late December undoubtedly pushed some birds south just prior to the survey.

 

“However, we still saw a significant increase in the number of birds, as compared to the 26,400 that were recorded last year,” Dinges said. “A year ago, wintering conditions with heavy snowfall were highly unfavorable, which dramatically reduced access to waste grain.”

 

During the recent survey, an estimated 110,800 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 24,000 on Nelson Lake in Oliver County. No waterfowl were recorded on Lake Sakakawea, which officially froze over just days before the survey. Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 16,400 mallards were tallied statewide, most of which were recorded on Nelson Lake.

 

The 10-year average (2008-17) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 95,600 Canada geese and 27,300 mallards.

 

All states participate in the midwinter survey during the same time frame, so birds are not counted more than once.

North Dakota Spring Mule Deer Survey Up 21%

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its annual spring mule deer survey in April, and results indicate western North Dakota’s mule deer population has increased 21 percent from last year.

Bruce Stillings, big game supervisor, said the increase is a result of higher adult doe survival in 2015, three consecutive years of good fawn production, and overwinter survival combined with milder winter weather conditions.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND     Game and Fish

“These factors, along with no harvest of antlerless mule deer during the past four deer hunting seasons, have resulted in mule deer numbers doubling since we experienced our low in 2012,” Stillings said.

Biologists counted 2,880 mule deer in 306.3 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 9.4 deer per square mile, which is up from 7.8 deer per square mile in 2015.

The spring mule deer survey is used to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands. It is conducted after the snow has melted and before the trees begin to leaf out, providing the best conditions for aerial observation of deer. Biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 study areas since the 1950s.