Time to start thinking elk, moose, bighorn sheep hunts in North Dakota

North Dakota’s elk, moose and bighorn sheep applications are available online at the State Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Paper applications are scheduled to arrive at vendors by March 10. The deadline for applying is March 22.

A total of 389 elk licenses are available to hunters this fall, an increase of 51 from last year.

Unit E1 is split into east and west units to help direct harvest on the two separate elk herds in the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Hills.

New Unit E6 has seven licenses, and is made up of all land east of Highway 31 in Sioux County. Management efforts in this unit are coordinated with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

A total of 247 moose licenses are available in 2017, an increase of 45 from last year. Most of the increase is antlerless licenses in units M9 and M10, due to an increasing moose population in these units.

Unit M10 is split into two units to help direct harvest. Unit M10 is north of U.S. Highway 2, and Unit M11 is south of U.S. Highway 2. Hunting units M1C and M4 will remain closed due to a continued downward trend in moose numbers in the northeastern part of the state.

Similar to last year’s bighorn sheep hunting season and lottery application process, a hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2017, depending on the sheep population. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after summer population surveys are completed. The season was closed in 2015 due to a bacterial pneumonia outbreak.

As in 2016, applicants will still apply for a license at the same time as moose and elk, but not for a specific unit. Once total licenses are determined for each unit in late summer, the bighorn lottery will then be held and successful applicants will be contacted to select a hunting unit.

Because the bighorn sheep application fee is not refundable as per state law, if a bighorn season is not held, applicants would not receive a refund. Nonresidents may apply for North Dakota bighorn sheep licenses only through the Game and Fish website.

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep lottery licenses are issued as once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota. Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

Harvest statistics released by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department show overall hunter success during the 2016 season for bighorn sheep was 100 percent, 97 percent for moose and 56 percent for elk.

Game and Fish issued seven bighorn sheep licenses and auctioned one. All eight hunters harvested a bighorn ram.

A total of 200 moose licenses were issued last year. Of that total, 192 hunters harvested 187 animals – 121 bulls and 66 cows/calves.

The department issued 348 elk licenses last year. Of that total, 324 hunters harvested 179 elk – 102 bulls and 77 cows/calves.

Moose and Elk harvest statistics by unit.

Hunter success during last fall’s pronghorn hunting season was 73 percent, according to statistics provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Game and Fish issued 730 licenses (474 lottery and 256 gratis), and 716 hunters took 523 pronghorn, consisting of 482 bucks and 41 does. Each hunter spent an average of 2.2 days afield.

The 2017 pronghorn hunting season will be determined in July.

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