By BLAKE NICHOLSON | Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Enthusiasm for pronghorn hunting is high this season in North Dakota, with about 6,500 people applying for just 410 licenses after it was banned in the state for several years.

North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department is allowing hunters to go after pronghorn in the Badlands for a second straight year. No hunting was allowed from 2010-2013, after a string of harsh winters decimated the population.

Pronghorn numbers rebounded enough to where a limited hunting season was held in 2014, with 250 licenses issued in one hunting unit. This year, 410 licenses were made available in three hunting units in the southwest. Some 6,500 people applied. That compares with about 10,200 applications for 6,000 licenses in 15 units in 2007, the peak year for licenses.

“Pronghorn has always created a lot of interest,” Game and Fish Wildlife Chief Jeb Williams said. “Not as much as deer, but they’re unique critters that people really like to recreate after.”

Unique to North America, pronghorn are the fastest land mammal in the U.S. and are commonly called antelope in North Dakota because of their resemblance to the African animal. Southwestern North Dakota is on the edge of their western range.

Interest in licenses is expected to improve as more areas are made available for the hunt.

“If we opened it up, say, north of the interstate, you’d probably see a group of different people applying,” Williams said.

Most hunters seek out bucks, and a big reason for the increase in licenses this year is a jump in the buck-to-doe ratio. A Game and Fish survey earlier this year estimated 44 bucks for every 100 does _ about double the ratio during years in which hunting was closed.

“You see a lot of groups of 10, 12 young bucks running around,” Marmarth hunting guide Kevin Swanke said in July when the season was announced.

A Game and Fish Department survey this year estimated North Dakota’s pronghorn population at 5,500 animals, up 53 percent from the recent low point in 2012.

The deadline to apply for a license was Aug. 5. Game and Fish then held a lottery drawing to determine who received licenses. Results are now available on the agency website, www.gf.nd.gov.

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