Big demand for pronghorn tags

Even a limited antelope season in North Dakota draws an abundance of interest. The Game and Fish Department conducted a limited pronghorn antelope lottery this past week. There were nearly 6,000 applicants for only 250 licenses, 74 of which were gratis licenses issued to landowners.

Applicants have been informed of lottery results for the first pronghorn season held in the state since 2009. The season was closed in 2010 due to low numbers and remained closed in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Harsh winter weather was cited by Game and Fish as a major factor in lower pronghorn numbers. A 49 percent increase in the pronghorn population from 2012 to 2013 set the stage for a possible return to a limited pronghorn season in 2014. Aerial surveys conducted late this summer showed a return to huntable numbers of pronghorns in a small region of the state.

This year’s lottery was held for licenses in unit 4A only. 4A is located in the extreme southwestern part of the state. Successful applicants can participate in a bow-only season from noon Aug. 29 through Sept. 29 or with a firearm or bow from noon Oct. 3-10. Because the lottery was limited to a single hunting unit this year, hunters with earned preference points from previously unsuccessful applications will not lose their points if they did not apply.

Aerial surveys counted 1,650 pronghorn antelope in unit 4A. That statewide pronghorn population was 5,700 animals, too few for biologists to recommend conducting an expanded season in 2014.