GF&P approves deer tag reductions
By Regina Garcia Cano
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A state hunting regulatory commission has approved steep cuts to the number of licenses and tags available for many of South Dakota's deer hunting seasons.
The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission moved Thursday to drastically cut the licenses and tags in an effort to counter a shrinking herd caused by harsh winters, disease, habitat loss and hunting.
The commission's chairman, John Cooper, said the commission hopes that the changes, which will go into effect this year, will bring the deer population up by 2016, provided that the upcoming winters are not too severe.
"It's always a fine dance," Cooper said. "We are trying to reach a happy medium."
Under the proposal, the East River 2014 deer season will see 19,375 any-deer tags compared with 21,465 in 2013. But the most drastic cut applies to antlerless deer tags, which have been cut by almost 60 percent. The commission allowed for 29,170 of those tags in 2013, but it approved only 10,700 for this year.
Resident licenses in the East River will be cut to 26,025 from 33,265 in 2013.
The West River season will have 16,075 any-deer tags, a reduction of about 1,700 compared with last year. Antlerless tags, however, will be reduced by 86 percent, bringing the number to 3,885. Only 18,310 resident licenses will be available during this season, a cut of 17 percent.
In the Black Hills season, only single-tag licenses are available. The commission left the upcoming season with no antlerless licenses, but calls for 200 resident any-deer licenses and 3,000 resident whitetail deer licenses.
Custer State Park will again have 10 any-whitetail licenses and 20 antlerless whitetail muzzleloader licenses.
Cooper said the commission received about 30 written statements and around 60 phone calls during the public comment period on the proposed changes. Two people spoke on the matter before the commission during its meeting Thursday in Yankton. Cooper said most comments were supportive of the commission's move to preserve the state's herd.