Antelope season decision due Monday

The status of antelope hunting in North Dakota will be known Monday. That’s the deadline for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to submit their annual antelope hunting season recommendation to the governor’s office for inclusion in the state’s antelope hunting proclamation.

“We wanted it done by Friday but we were slowed down by three days of real bad wind,” said Randy Kreil, NDG&F wildlife division chief. “It was too dangerous to fly.”

The flights referred to by Kreil were annual summer surveys flown over the state’s antelope range. From the air, biologists count adult antelope, young of the year and get a good idea of conditions throughout the state’s traditional antelope habitat.

Kreil said obtaining data from antelope country is always done in a very tight window, often only a few days before recommendations are presented to the governor for consideration. Late survey flights allow biologists the best opportunity to gather the most accurate count possible with an emphasis on the overall population and fawn recruitment.

“They’ll work numbers over the weekend,” said Kreil. “That’s not uncommon.”

NDG&F had four to five planes in the air several days this past week to conduct the aerial surveys of antelope. What they learned will be the determining factor as to the extent of antelope hunting allowed this fall, if a season is held.

Kreil sounded optimistic during an April round of NDG&F advisory board meetings that at least a limited antelope season would be conducted in 2014. However, he cautioned, a final determination would depend upon this summer’s aerial surveys and the conclusion of big game biologists.

Earlier statistics showed that the state’s 2013 antelope population had increased by 49 percent over 2012. The increase was encouraging but not enough to warrant holding an antelope season last year. Another increase this year could be enough to conduct a season in some hunting units, most likely in the extreme southwest corner of the state.

Antelope hunting has been closed in North Dakota since the 2009 hunting season. The season was closed in 2010 due to limited numbers, primarily because of harsh winter conditions.