30,000 Deer Hunters in North Dakota Get Refunds Due To Disease Outbreak

by Matthew Memrick

A deer-centric disease outbreak forced North Dakota officials to refund 30,000 hunters recently. And the monetary impact could be big.

According to KFYR, an epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has sadly infected the white-tail deer population in about half the state.

Get out a North Dakota map. Take a ruler, draw a diagonal line across the state, and that’s how much of the western part of the Peace Garden State is affected.

It’s a costly decision as each license costs $255 by lottery and requires special application procedures. There are approximately 78,000 state hunters, not including 13,500 gratis applicants, who applied for 64,500 deer gun lottery licenses. Last year, the state made 68,650 deer gun licenses available.

According to a post-season state survey from April, North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials said 58,146 state deer hunters took approximately 39,322 deer during the 2020 deer-gun hunting season. 

EHD Rates Up in North Dakota

North Dakota wildlife chief Casey Anderson said the move came as more reports of EHD and evidence of moderate to significant deer losses in some western areas.

The first confirmed EHD report occurred in early August. 

EHD, a naturally occurring fatal virus spread by biting midges or small flies, affects white-tailed deer only.

Human consumption or handling of deer meat is not an issue because the virus is not harmful to humans and early winter weather kills the midge while decreasing the disease’s effects. 

North Dakota hunters who have antlered white-tail, antlerless white-tail, any antlered, and any antlerless licenses are eligible for refunds. For a list of affected units, go here.

The decision means that hunters who return their licenses will have their bonus points restored, if applicable, to the number of the same points before the 2021 deer gun lottery.

“Compared to previous years, a much larger portion of the state seems to be affected,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, substantial mortality has been documented in some areas.”

In 2020, an EHD outbreak meant hunters had the option of a refund then too.

What Can Be Done?

Officials continue to monitor reports to determine if other units will become eligible for refunds due to the outbreak.

The state needs hunters and landowners to report dead deer with any helpful photos online at gf.nd.gov/mortality-report.

Anderson wants hunters to find out the deer mortality conditions in their area before turning in their licenses.

The wildlife chief said past EHD outbreaks can be severe in localized areas within a unit with a small impact. That means there still could be a good deer harvest in the area.

Be quick because qualifying mailed tags and an EHD requested refund note must be at the Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office no later than Nov. 4.