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GF&P: Modifications to the South Dakota deer drawing proposal continue

Tony Leif1 / 2
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Last week, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GF&P) Commission proposed several changes to the deer drawing structure proposal first made back in July. Initially, the proposal required deer hunters to choose one of the following deer hunting seasons in the first draw: East River (included Special Buck), West River (included Special Buck), Black Hills, Custer State Park, Refuge and Muzzleloader. The most significant change going into the October Commission meeting now is that only those drawings for East River, West River, Black Hills and Muzzleloader deer would be combined in the first and second drawings — removing Special Buck, Custer State Park and Refuge Deer. As revised, applicants would have to choose between one of the four seasons as their first choice and one of the four seasons as their second choice.

We know that Custer State Park and Refuge Deer are bonus seasons with less than 40 applicants only applying for the park or for a refuge deer tag. This indicates the vast majority of these applicants are applying for other seasons. Removing Special Buck means that an applicant could apply for both East and West River tags in the first draw each year. Each of these three seasons would operate exactly how they are done today.

To allow residents more opportunity at acquiring additional licenses in the third draw before resident licenses are made available to nonresidents, leftover licenses would go back into their designated seasons and no longer be pooled in a combined drawing. This would allow a resident the opportunity to submit one application for each season for which they do not possess a license. The maximum number of licenses a resident could have through the third draw would be four, one for each season (West River, East River, Black Hills and Muzzleloader). In the fourth draw, residents could apply for five additional licenses to get a maximum total of nine.

Nonresidents could only have one license all the way through the fourth draw. This would include nonresident Special Buck.

After the fourth draw, all licenses would be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

While first draw applicants must continue to use accrued preference points for their first choice, applicants would also have the option to use preference points for any other choice in the first three drawings. An applicant who uses preference to acquire a license in a season would not be allowed to purchase a preference point for that season. The advantage of this new system will be that hunters can accrue preference points for multiple seasons and then elect to switch to a different "preferred" license in a different season in a future year.

With these modifications, the goal remains the same: to increase the number of deer hunters who draw their preferred license. The department and the Commission remain committed to finding ways to sustain South Dakota's strong outdoor heritage and encourage participation in hunting and other outdoor activities. The intent of the proposed changes are to increase everyone's odds at drawing at least one firearm deer hunting license.

The initial proposal presented at the July GFP Commission meeting can be found and heard online at The current proposal, as defined here, can also be found online at

The final public hearing on this proposal will be Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. MDT at Cadillac Jacks Spring Hill Suites in Deadwood. Individuals can also provide written comments on this proposal online at