PIERRE, S.D. – Last week, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission voted to approve the deer license allocation proposal with no changes.
The most significant change from how the drawings are structured today is that drawings for East River, West River, Black Hills and Muzzleloader deer seasons will be combined in the first and second drawings. In the first draw, applicants will have to choose between one of the four seasons. Special buck, Custer State Park and Refuge deer hunting seasons will remain unchanged from the current draw structure.
“This was not an easy decision to make. The tough topics and conversations don’t come without discomfort or change,” stated Russell Olson, GFP Commissioner from Wentworth. “Good policy leaders seek change and look for ways to make South Dakota better. South Dakota has, and will continue to have more deer hunting opportunity than just about any other state in the Midwest. We will be watching this closely and if the new system isn’t doing what it’s designed to do, we will make changes.”
Changes that will be effective for the 2019 deer hunting seasons include:
1. Remove Special Buck, Custer State Park and Refuge Deer from the combined deer drawing.
These seasons will remain separate drawings.
Hunters still have to choose among licenses available for East River, West River Black Hills and Muzzleloader in the first draw, both first and second choices.
2. In the second draw, an applicant may only apply for a license if the applicant did not draw a license in the first draw.
3. In the third draw, the four seasons will no longer be drawn together and a resident will submit one application for each season they do not have a license for.
The maximum number of licenses a resident could have through the third draw is four; one for each of the East River, West River, Black Hills and Muzzleloader seasons.
Non-residents without a license will be able to apply for a license remaining in pools originally designated for non-residents in the Black Hills and West River deer hunting seasons.
4. In the fourth draw, remaining resident and non-resident licenses will be pooled within each season.
Residents can submit up to five applications in any of the four seasons.
Non-residents who do not have a license can submit one application for any remaining license.
5. After the fourth draw, all licenses will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
6. While first draw applicants must continue to use accrued preference points for their first choice, applicants can use preference points for any other choice in the first three drawings. An applicant who uses preference to acquire a license in a season is not allowed to purchase a preference point for that season. The advantage of this new system is 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.
“The department did an unprecedented amount of outreach on this topic and continues to receive questions and feedback regarding the decision made and what happens next,” concluded Kevin Robling, GFP special projects coordinator. “Ultimately this is about increasing deer hunters’ chances of getting their preferred license more often and getting more people out deer hunting every year.”