Past winters still taking toll on SD deerThe initial impact came through direct mortality, followed by a wave of weaker reproduction the following springs by animals that survived but were stressed and in poor health.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Captol Bureau
CUSTER — The harsh conditions of two and three winters ago cut deeply into wildlife in many parts of South Dakota, especially for big game such as deer. The initial impact came through direct mortality, followed by a wave of weaker reproduction the following springs by animals that survived but were stressed and in poor health.
What that likely means for deer hunters is they’ll be allowed to take fewer deer this fall.
The smaller populations of mule deer and whitetails, especially across the northern third of South Dakota counties, led the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission to follow the recommendations from the state’s wildlife biologists Thursday that the herds need to be allowed a better chance to rebuild.
The commission proposed that fewer licenses overall be issued and fewer multi-tag licenses be allowed during the West River, Black Hills, archery, muzzle-loader and youth seasons.
“It seems like all the wildlife has dropped in numbers, deer, antelope, whatever,” said commission member Barry Jensen, of White River.
Also proposed is a related change during the antelope season. Hunters wouldn’t be allowed to use their West River antlerless deer permits to take does and fawns during the antelope season.
That idea came from commissioner Susie Knippling, of Gann Valley, who said it would take some early pressure off deer and help archery hunters. GF&P officials said about 7 to 8 percent of the West River antlerless harvest by rifle hunters came during the antelope season from late September to mid-October.
The commission will hold a public hearing June 7 during its next regular meeting in Pierre and make a final decision on the various deer seasons.
At that meeting, the commission also will receive biologists’ recommendations on the one major season that hasn’t yet been proposed, East River deer, and set a July hearing for it.
GF&P biologist Andy Lindbloom emphasized that some hunting units have plenty of deer, such as in the south-central region. He said some units could use more deer harvested and some are at a good balance between the population and landowners’ tolerance, but others need to be cut back.