State caps non-resident archery licenses on public land
South Dakota will join most other states in capping deer and antelope archery licenses for out-of-state hunters on public land.
The state Game Fish and Parks Commission unanimously approved the change Thursday at a meeting in Pierre.
South Dakota had been one of the few states that allowed an unlimited number of non-resident bowhunters on public land. Some resident bowhunters have said for years that the policy resulted in overcrowded public hunting lands and treated wildlife like a profit-making commodity.
The GF&P Commission is an eight-person body (currently down to six, due to two members stepping down and not yet being replaced) that is appointed by the governor.
The commission’s action allows up to 2,200 non-resident archery deer tags and 450 non-resident archery antelope tags on public land.
Non-resident licenses for private land are still unlimited.
Sam Kezar, a hunter from Lennox, said allowing unlimited non-resident license sales on private land is not science-based wildlife management.
“To try and separate the tag allocations between public land and private land misses the point of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, that our wildlife is a public resource,” Kezar told the commission.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is a non-binding set of principles to guide wildlife management and conservation. It is based on the idea that wildlife is a public resource and should be managed for the benefit of all citizens.
Non-resident bowhunters made up about one-fifth of South Dakota’s total number of archery deer licenses sold in 2021. But those non-resident hunters made up about half of the mule deer buck harvest.
Dana Rogers, a spokesperson with South Dakota Bowhunters Incorporated — a group that represents resident bowhunters — sees the change as a net positive. But he’s unsatisfied with “the hands-off approach to private land,” noting that wildlife is “all the same public resource.”
The group’s president, Justin Broughton, said in some western states, non-residents have to apply over multiple years before they draw a hunting license.
“We need to shift the focus to benefit our resident hunting,” Broughton said.
Chronic Wasting Disease continues
South Dakota’s deer populations are wrestling with pressures beyond non-residents and a brutal winter.
GF&P Senior Wildlife Biologist Andy Lindbloom updated the commission on the state of Chronic Wasting Disease in South Dakota’s deer and elk populations.
In 2022, the department tested about 500 samples, and 23 of those tested positive for the disease. For mule deer, there were 84 samples and 11 positives.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It is caused by abnormal proteins, called prions, that attack the animal’s brain and nervous system. The contagious disease can be spread through direct contact with infected animals, as well as through contaminated soil, food or water.
The state already confirmed over 650 cases of the disease in South Dakota’s white-tailed and mule deer and elk since 2001.
Hunters can have their deer tested for the disease by dropping off the animal’s head at one of the state’s collection stations, properly submitting lymph nodes, or by contacting GF&P for help at no cost.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. The original version of the story incorrectly described South Dakota as the only state that allowed unlimited numbers of non-resident bowhunters on public land.