South Dakota Elk Seasons Set

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S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Commissioners finalized a variety of elk hunting seasons and endorsed changes in the rules governing landowner preference at their April meeting held at North Sioux City.

In the past, landowners with 240 acres of land in the Black Hills and Prairie elk units were eligible to apply for an elk license every third year if their land had 200 days of elk use. Landowners with 2,000 days of elk use were eligible to apply for a license every year.

At its meeting, the commission kept the 240-acre standard and set a single threshold for elk use at 500 elk use days. An elk use day is defined as any day that an elk feeds or waters on private property. The new rule allows landowners who meet the criteria to apply for an elk license every year.

In addition to the new landowner preference criteria, there will also be a new system for reviewing landowner preference applications.

Under the new process, GFP conservation officers will be able to approve landowner preference when it's clear that the land meets the criteria. If a landowner's eligibility is in doubt, conservation officers will review the details of the preference application with their supervisory staff.

Assistant Wildlife Division Director Emmett Keyser explained to commissioners that the regional supervisor and a team that includes the local conservation officer and the regional game manager will make an assessment of the land's elk use. If the decision is made to deny the landowner preference, that decision may be appealed to the Wildlife Division director.

Keyser said the review team would work in cooperation with the landowner to gather more information about the case. "Landowners do play a significant role in elk management because they tolerate elk on their land," Keyser said.

Prior to its finalization, the commissioners discussed the Black Hills elk season at some length, particularly the provision to increase the number of "any" elk licenses from the 730 offered last year to 855 this year. There was some concern on the commission that harvesting another 100 bulls would hurt the quality of the herd.

Assistant Wildlife Division Director George Vandel assured the commission that the herd would not be harmed by the increased bull harvest. "Our herd can handle that right now," Vandel said.

Commissioners also finalized the archery elk and prairie elk seasons. The number of licenses in the archery season will be 129 "any" elk and 106 "antlerless" elk compared to 104 "any" elk and 145 "antlerless" elk last year.

Both the prairie elk and archery elk seasons will lengthen to include the last 17 days of August. That adjustment will put the hunting season in the Gregory County unit in sync with the elk hunting season across the border in Nebraska.