PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Nearly as many South Dakota hunters applied in 2019 to pursue deer with guns under a new licensing system, an official for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department said Wednesday.
That’s despite a new restriction limiting a hunter to choosing two top seasons. Six were possible in previous years.
On the flip side, the changes drew slightly more non-residents.
Tony Leif, director for the department’s Wildlife Division, explained the numbers.
“In 2018, we had 53,191 residents and 4,802 non-resident applicants for deer licenses in the initial deer drawings,” Leif said. “In 2019, we had 52,641 residents and 5,365 (non-resident) applicants. These are numbers of unique applicants. Some apply for more than one license.”
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission went through several rounds of finding the right set of rule changes. Initially the commissioners wanted to limit a hunter to choosing a top season in the first round. That later was expanded to two seasons.
They include East River, West River, Black Hills, muzzleloader, Custer State Park and refuge seasons. The deadline for mail-in applications was June 14. The on-line deadline was June 19.
The department ramped-up publicity as the deadlines approached and applications were arriving at a pace slower than expected.
What do the data mean? Leif said it’s still a bit early to know.
“These numbers indicate that the change in the system had minimal impact on the number of deer hunters that submitted applications,” he said.
“The true test of the change will be how many different hunters get one of their ‘preferred’ licenses. This was the primary objective of the change. We will be able to evaluate that after the drawing is conducted within the next week,” he said.
Kevin Robling, the department’s deputy secretary, said about $50,000 was spent on additional efforts to make hunters aware of the new deadline dates.
The money was spent on things such as postcard mailings, radio and TV ads and banners.
“It was great to see the number of applicants stayed the same compared to 2018 and we will have a better idea regarding increased draw probabilities once the draw is complete. An update will be given at the July 8th commission meeting,” Robling said.
For more on the changes go to https://gfp.sd.gov/deer/.