The fall mule deer survey results in the Game and Fish Department study indicate the drought had a substantial influence on fawn production.
Biologists counted 2,163 mule deer in the aerial survey in October. The ratio of 60 fawns per 100 does was significantly lower than last year (82/100) and the long-term average (88/100), while 38 bucks per 100 does was similar to 2020 (36/100) and long-term (43/100).
“This year’s count was the lowest fawn-to-doe ratio since 2011 and 2012, following the severe winters of 2008 through 2010,” said Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor, Dickinson. “Nutritional stress related to the drought was also apparent with considerably more yearling bucks observed as spikes rather than forked bucks.”
Snowfall and windy conditions during the survey limited biologists to 20 of the 24 study areas, Stillings said.
The fall aerial survey, conducted specifically to study demographics, covers 24 study areas and 306.3 square miles in western North Dakota. Biologists also survey the same study areas in the spring of each year to determine deer abundance.