Noon Friday, the hunt is on as deer gun season kicks off in North Dakota.

The Bismarck tribune reports that many hunters are optimistic despite a year that started with harsh winter weather and continued with the drought.

Over 50,000 licenses have been handed out for the season this year.

Jeb Williams of North Dakota Game & Fish says the prospects are encouraging for this year: “We have not had any reductions in any units. In some units, we’ve stayed the same, other units have had an increase in licenses and mule deer numbers are looking better.”

The Game & Fish website says one thing hunters should watch out for this year is early ice:

"Hunters should be cautious of walking on frozen stock ponds, sloughs, creeks and rivers...in addition, hunters should be aware of snow-covered ice. Snow insulates ice, inhibiting solid ice formation, and makes it difficult to check thickness. Snow also hides cracked, weak and open water areas."

[Sources: Bismarck Tribune, ND Game & Fish]