Deer Forecast-Midwest

Pembina Hills

Hunting in the wide-open spaces of North Dakota is controlled through permits issued in a drawing. This limits hunting pressure and allows bucks across the state to live long enough to reach trophy sizes. State big-game supervisor Roger Johnson points to northeastern North Dakota's Pembina Hills, in Pembina and Cavalier counties, as a place where hunters can find mature bucks on public land. Thick with hardwoods, the hills along the Pembina River valley provide big bucks with necessary escape cover. The parklands of the Turtle Mountains in Rolette and Bottineau counties offer similar opportunities. Statewide, Johnson is expecting a record deer harvest in 2001 after the state issued a record 105,000 gun-hunting permits. Last year, only 88,000 permits were available. Deer have experienced good survival in recent winters. Aerial surveys last winter showed record numbers in the eastern half of the state, where deer feasted on standing row crops left behind by farmers. In the west, mule deer numbers have been expanding since the early 1990s. Although whitetails have expanded in western North Dakota, generally they prefer eastern creek bottoms and agricultural lands, while mule deer live in higher and drier rangeland habitat. The North Dakota Badlands in the western part of the state support excellent populations of both muleys and whitetails.