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GLAD YOU ASKED: Elk tags, preferences explained

Q: With the upcoming hunting seasons, there are questions regarding preference, especially big-game preferences. Some hunters have as many as 30 preferences for elk-in-the-park. How does the Game Fish & Parks determine the allocations?

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A: Chris Hull, of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks’ Communications Division, emailed the following response:

“Every year you don’t successfully draw a license, you receive a preference point for next year’s drawing for that season.

“For example, this year there were three ‘any elk’ tags available for Custer State Park. We take any hunter with 15 or more preference points and put them in the top group. Only those hunters are eligible for one-third of the available tags. (This year it was one tag. If we had 30 tags available, the hunters with 15 years of preference would be eligible for 10 tags). All the hunters who didn’t draw out of this pool then go down and join the group that has 10 to 14 years of preference points. This group also gets one-third of the tags. All the hunters who didn’t draw from that pool drop down to the zero to nine years of preference for the final one-third of the tags allocated. This year, for the Custer State Park elk season, 7,420 individual hunters applied for a license. Those 7,240 hunters held over 80,000 preference points.”

Chuck Schlueter, communications manager for the GF&P added, “Custer State Park elk license allocations are based on elk herd management objectives. CSP establishes a target herd size for which they manage the elk, although this can fluctuate depending on range and other conditions. The primary tool for maintaining the elk population is through hunting. If CSP wishes to grow the herd, there are fewer licenses issued with no or very few antlerless elk permits. If there are too many elk for conditions in the park, they will issue more licenses and more antlerless elk licenses to help lower the population.”

Have a question? We’ll find the answer. Send your question or complaint to Glad You Asked, The Daily Republic, P.O. Box 1288, Mitchell, S.D., 57301, or email it with “Glad You Asked” in the subject line to Include your name, address and a daytime telephone number, none of which will be published.