GF&P reduces elk licenses across the board for 2011BRANDON — After years of letting hunters take lots of elk, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission followed the recommendations of its biologists Thursday and reduced the numbers of tags available for all of the elk seasons this fall.
BRANDON — After years of letting hunters take lots of elk, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission followed the recommendations of its biologists Thursday and reduced the numbers of tags available for all of the elk seasons this fall.
“We had a very high harvest rate of cows (female elk),” Tom Kirschenmann, the top manager for big game in the state Wildlife Division, told the commission.
He said the larger harvests have helped to bring down the sizes of elk herds and, in turn, reduce the depredation suffered by landowners in some areas. A three-year study is near the finish of its first year for Black Hills big game.
Big horn sheep have been hurt by pneumonia and deer herds have felt the effects of harvest from hunters. One purpose of the study is to determine the effects of mountain lions preying on the elk, sheep and deer, according to Kirschenmann.
Elk tags, especially those for any elk which are used primarily by hunters for taking trophy bulls, traditionally have been some of the most-sought and highest-prized hunting licenses available to South Dakota sportsmen. The licenses are distributed through a special randomdrawing system.
The commission agreed to trim the numbers of tags for:
• Archery elk by seven anyelk and 12 antlerless elk, to 89 and 37.
• Black Hills firearms elk by 25 any-elk and 175 antlerless elk, to 470 and 395.
• Prairie firearms elk by one any-elk and seven antlerless elk, to 49 and 79.
• Custer State Park early archery by two any-elk licenses, to three.
• Custer State Park firearms elk by 10 any-elk, to 11.
• Custer State Park late archery elk by 15 any-elk, to 15.
• Close the special antlerless elk season in Custer State Park, which had five licenses available in 2010.
That special antlerless season in the park is an example of how conditions have changes. In 2005 and 2006, there were 100 licenses available each season and more than 4,000 hunters applied for them. In 2006, the tags were reduced to 60; in 2008, 40; in 2009, 20; and in 2010, five. There were still more than 4,000 applicants every year, even as the numbers went down.
Overall in the park, there were 199 licenses available in 2006 for all of the elk seasons. For 2011, there will be just 29. The Black Hills general season had 2,470 licensed hunters in 2006 and will have just 865 this fall.
For all of the seasons combined in 2010, there were 673 elk harvested: Archery elk 38; Black Hills 560; Prairie elk 55; Custer early archery none; Custer general 16; Custer late archery none; and Custer special antlerless four.
Back in 2006, the numbers of elk harvested among the seasons totaled more 1,500.