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South Dakota Proposes Fewer Black Hills Elk Licenses

March 15, 2008.

From South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks:

A reduction in the elk population in the Black Hills has resulted in hunting season proposals that offer fewer licenses.

The S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Commission approved the proposed Black Hills elk, Black Hills archery elk and prairie elk hunting seasons at its March meeting in Pierre. The seasons are scheduled to be finalized at the commission's April 3-4 meeting in Brookings.

According to GFP Senior Big Game Biologist Ted Benzon, the combination of dry conditions and high elk numbers resulted in depredation concerns that reached a level at which it was necessary to reduce the elk population. "Since 2003, we have reduced the elk population by approximately 30 percent through an aggressive cow harvest management strategy," Benzon said. "Hunter harvest played a significant role in reducing elk numbers, and now we are switching to a maintenance harvest strategy. Since a reduction is no longer necessary, license numbers for 2008 have been reduced and will likely stabilize over the next few years."

As proposed, the Black Hills elk season would offer 755 "any elk" licenses and 920 "antlerless elk" licenses. In 2007, the season offered 855 "any elk" licenses and 1,200 "antlerless elk" licenses, a total reduction of 400 licenses for the 2008 season.

The Black Hills archery elk season also would see a reduction of 35 licenses with five fewer "any elk" licenses and 30 fewer "antlerless elk" licenses.

"The Black Hills elk herd is still in great shape," said Wildlife Division Assistant Director George Vandel, "and we're learning more about it every year."

The proposed prairie elk hunting season did not call for an adjustment in the number of licenses offered. One change in that season, and in the archery season, is an adjustment in the season dates in Unit 30A in Gregory County so that it will coincide with the dates for the Boyd County, Neb., archery elk season. As proposed, the season dates in that unit would be Aug. 15 to Nov. 14 and Nov. 24 to Dec. 31.

n the Black Hills units, the archery season dates would be Sept. 1 through Sept. 30. Season dates for the Black Hills elk season are proposed as Oct. 1 through Oct. 31 for "any elk," Oct. 1 through Oct. 15 and Dec. 1 through Dec. 15 for first "antlerless elk" and Oct. 16 through Oct. 31 and Dec. 1 through Dec. 15 for second "antlerless elk."

The three seasons are scheduled to be the topic of a public hearing at the commission's April meeting in Brookings. Citizens who would like to provide written comments on the changes in the elk season may do so up until 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 2. Those comments may be mailed to Game, Fish and Parks Commission, 523 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501 or e-mailed to

All comments must include the sender's full name and address in order to become part of the official record.

Comments may also be presented in person at the GFP Commission meeting at the public hearing which will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at the Days Inn in Brookings.

After the commission acts on the finalizations, the elk season application process will begin later in April. The application deadline will be May 25.

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