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Wiltz: Some advice for East River deer hunters

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks is proposing a change in the deer license application process for 2019. There are no changes for 2018, and the applications are already out with the first deadline being July 20 for Black Hills and West River Deer.

The proposed 2019 application will be a single application rather than the multiple applications of the past for West River, East River, Black Hills, Muzzleloader, Custer State Park divisions, and the refuges. We will be asked to make a single first choice, and unlike the past, our success or failure in that first choice will have a bearing on choices that follow.

I believe the new proposal has everything to do with hunters who go four or five years without drawing a tag in “difficult draw” units such as Bon Homme, Yankton, and Union counties. Would the new proposal actually work? As I see it, it will a little bit.

Let’s say it’s 2019, and I make my first choice a West River unit. Presuming that I’m successful, I cannot apply for an East River tag, as I have in the past, and compete with other East River applicants. In light of this, we would have to say the new system will work to a degree.

But what if the new proposal encourages hunters who have given up on ever drawing that “difficult draw” to begin applying again. This will happen and to what degree, we just don’t know. I’d like to leave the system as it is. We’re trying to fix something that ain’t broke.

Allow me to give some hunters a little kick in the butt. Statistics show that East River applicants are less likely than West River applicants to apply for units outside of their comfort zones. I say it’s time for those East River applicants who have been “chained to the same tree in the same pasture” to get adventuresome. Knock on some doors.

I’ll tell you a secret: Brule County whitetail tags are a relatively easy draw. Chamberlain and White Lake have motels and eateries. Maybe it’s time to dig out the old tent!

I have a big day coming up July 17. After moping around and not being permitted to do much of anything for the past two weeks, the University of Wisconsin Hospital neurology people are going to hook up the wires they put in my brain to the battery they buried in my left shoulder and see if it all works to control my tremor. Then I finally get to come home! Thank God! Thanks to all of you for the prayers!

What’s next on my agenda? You probably wouldn’t guess an elk hunt. In my June 20 column, I reported on my 1-in-83 chance to draw an “Any Elk” tag for Unit BHE-H2A. In spite of 15 preference points, I failed. For Custer State Park, almost 3,000 applicants with 15-plus years of preference drew for three tags! While I hate to say anything negative about South Dakota hunting, I have to face the facts. Since my chances of downing an elk on South Dakota soil in the near future are slim, I had to do something about it.

As you know, I had a Wyoming cow elk tag last fall that led to a marvelous adventure and a year’s supply of incredible meat. Partner Mike Hall and I are going to do it again, but this time we are going to hunt near Wilson (just outside of Jackson), instead of Meeteetse. We will hunt in the shadow of the Grand Tetons. Can it get any better than that?

With the $300 tag and the $1,000 outfitter fee, the hunt is affordable for hunters like me who live on social security and a South Dakota teacher’s retirement check. Granted, South Dakota teacher retirement is one heck of a program. We hunt at the end of August and beginning of September, so I’ll have to hustle to get back into reasonable shape.

Some have little regard for a cow elk hunt. I’ve been on five, and on all of them I had a good bull in my crosshairs, and I had a fantastic adventure at an affordable price — a great combination.

Readers tell me that their favorite columns are about far-away places. Next week, I’ll finally get around to telling you about hunting ducks in Argentina.

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