North Dakota Deer Hunting : Mule Deer Hunting and Whitetail Deer Hunting
If you’re a deer hunter in North Dakota, you’re lucky. You have the chance to hunt both mule deer and whitetail deer, two of the coolest deer in North America. But these two deer are not the same. They have some big differences that you need to know before you go hunting. In this article, we’ll tell you how mule deer and whitetail deer look, act, live and how you can hunt them.
How They Look
Mule deer and whitetail deer are both deer, but they belong to different species. They have some things in common, like their brown fur that changes color with the seasons, but they also have some things that make them unique.
One of the easiest ways to tell them apart is by their antlers. Mule deer have forked antlers that split into two branches. Most mule deer bucks have two forks and four points plus a brow tine on each side, but some bucks can have more or less. Mule deer antlers are also usually bigger than whitetail antlers, which may make them more impressive for some hunters.
Whitetail deer have straight antlers that grow out of a main beam. The typical whitetail buck has four or five points, including the eye guard or brow tine, on each side. Whitetail antlers tend to be more even and neat than mule deer antlers.
Another way to tell them apart is by their tails. Mule deer have a black-tipped tail that is about 10 inches long and hangs down when they’re relaxed. When they’re scared, they raise their tail slightly and show a white patch on their butt. Whitetail deer have a long and fluffy tail that is about 15 inches long and brown on top and white underneath. When they’re scared, they raise their tail high and show a big white flag that can warn other deer or hunters.
Mule deer also tend to be bigger than whitetail deer, which may mean more meat for hunters. The average mule deer buck in North Dakota weighs over 250 pounds, while the average whitetail buck weighs around 200 pounds.
How They Act and Live
Mule deer and whitetail deer also act and live differently, which may affect how you find and hunt them.
Mule deer are more at home in open country and mountains, where they use their good eyesight and big ears to spot predators. They also have a special way of running called stotting, which means they jump with all four legs at the same time. This helps them move fast over long distances. Mule deer are more active during the day than whitetail deer, especially in the morning and evening.
Whitetail deer are more comfortable in thick cover and forests, where they use their strong smell and hearing to avoid danger. They also have a habit of waving their white tails when they’re scared, which can tell you where they’re going. Whitetail deer are more active at night than mule deer, especially during hunting season.
In North Dakota, mule deer are mostly found in the western part of the state, especially in the Badlands region along the Missouri River, the Little Missouri River, the Yellowstone River or their tributaries. Whitetail deer are more common and can be found almost everywhere in the state except for some areas in the southwest.
How You Can Hunt Them
Mule deer and whitetail deer are managed by the same rules and lottery system by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. But there are some differences in how many licenses and units are available for each species.
In 2022, there were 30,000 regular deer gun licenses available, of which 12,000 were for antlered mule deer. The mule deer units are mostly in the western part of the state, while the whitetail deer units cover most of the state except for some areas in the southwest.
You can also apply for archery or muzzleloader licenses for either species. The archery season opens on September 1 and closes on January 31, while the muzzleloader season opens on December 1 and closes on December 15. The regular gun season opens on November 10 and closes on November 26.
You need to apply for a lottery license to hunt deer in North Dakota, and the application deadline is June 7. You can apply online or by mail. You can also buy a preference point if you don’t want to hunt this year but want to increase your chances for next year.
Hunting mule deer and whitetail deer in North Dakota can be a lot of fun and rewarding. But you need to know the differences between these two deer and how to hunt them effectively. Here are some tips to help you out:
- Scout the area before the season and look for signs of deer activity, such as tracks, droppings, rubs and scrapes. Use maps, aerial photos and online tools to find potential hunting spots.
- Choose the right weapon and ammunition for your target species and hunting method. Mule deer may require more powerful rifles and bullets than whitetail deer, especially at long ranges. Archery and muzzleloader hunters need to practice their shooting skills and know their effective range.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and terrain. Wear layers of clothing that can keep you warm, dry and comfortable. Use camouflage or blaze orange clothing depending on the season and regulations. Wear sturdy boots and gloves to protect your feet and hands.
- Be patient and stealthy when hunting deer. Move slowly and quietly and use the wind and cover to your advantage. Avoid spooking deer by keeping a low profile and minimizing your scent. Use calls, rattles or decoys to attract deer if needed.
- Be ethical and respectful when hunting deer. Follow the rules and regulations and respect other hunters and landowners. Only shoot at deer that are within your range and skill level. Make sure of your target and what is beyond it. Aim for a quick and clean kill and recover your animal as soon as possible.
- Enjoy your hunt and your harvest. Hunting mule deer and whitetail deer in North Dakota can be a great experience and a source of healthy meat. Take pictures of your hunt and share them with your friends and family. Process your meat properly and store it safely. Cook your meat with care and savor every bite.
Mule deer hunting and whitetail deer hunting in North Dakota are both awesome ways to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature. Whether you prefer one or the other, or both, you can have a successful hunt if you know what you’re doing.