DICKINSON, N.D. - Western Edge hunters will soon be hitting the grasslands for North Dakota's 2018 pronghorn season, as the state Game and Fish Department allocates 1,075 licenses.

Pronghorn hunting has been an on-again, off-again, affair in North Dakota as a series of debilitating winters devastated the pronghorn population in the early half of the decade, halting hunting of the popular game.

Last year, five units were prohibited hunting areas, making those prime hunting locations this year, according to avid hunters.

The split season begins for bow-only hunters at noon Aug. 31 and ends at noon Sept. 21 for units 1A, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4C, 5A, 6A and Stark County's 7A. It's followed by the dual bow and firearm season, which starts at noon Oct. 5 and runs through Oct. 21.

"(W)e had over 11,000 hunters applying for the 1,075 licenses," Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor at North Dakota Game and Fish, said Thursday after the drawing. "It's a highly coveted license for one of our native big game species that's a really good, high quality hunt in the western part of the state."

Much of the southwest area of the state will be open to hunting, but some areas will remain closed. Federal and state properties such as refuges, sanctuaries, military installations, parks or historic sites are prohibited and closed to the pronghorn hunting. Hunters are reminded that when hunting near the boundaries of closed areas, retrieval restrictions may apply for game that cross boundary lines.

The east/west boundaries between 3-A and 3-B, and the west boundary of 2-B, is the Little Missouri River. The northern border of Unit 3-A begins where the Little Missouri River first touches the northernmost Slope County line, then westerly along and to the end of the northernmost Slope County line, thence due west along a straight line to the Montana border.

Bow season equipment restrictions require a pulled string bow, held and released by hand for hunting. Releasing aids may be used providing they are hand operated and that the shooter supports the draw weight of the bow. Compound bows used for hunting must have at least a 35 pound draw tension at 28 inches, with arrows at measuring at least 24 inches in length. During bow season, handguns may not be used in any manner to assist in the harvest of a pronghorn.

When the firearm season launches in early October, centerfire rifles of .22- through .49-caliber and muzzleloading rifles of .45-caliber or larger are legal for use. Centerfire rifles of .50-caliber or larger are prohibited.

"Two-thirds of the harvest will occur during the opening weekend, so it's important for hunters to do some pre-planning and get everything lined up ahead of time," Stillings said. "Respecting landowners and getting proper permissions before opening day can go a long way to being a part of that two-thirds."

Pronghorn, while not an antelope, are colloquially known as American antelope due to the resemblance the western game holds with its African counterpart. Pronghorns are known for their distinct white fur on the rear, sides, throats and underbellies, and can reach nearly 150 pounds.

Immediately following a kill, hunters are required to indicate the date of the kill by cutting out the appropriate month and day from the provided tag, and attaching it to the base of the horn on male pronghorn or in a slit in the ear for females. The reuse of tags is strictly prohibited. Bag limits are set at one pronghorn of any age or sex per license, with party hunting being illegal.

For more information on the 2018 Pronghorn hunting season visit gf.nd.gov/regulations/pronghorn.