Disease and declining population numbers cause GFP to reduce deer permits in southeastern South Dakota – Mitchell Republic

CUSTER, SD – Fewer permits and tags will be available for deer hunting in southeastern South Dakota this fall after the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission made changes in response to deer population numbers facing disease issues.

Bon Homme, Clay, Hutchinson, Lincoln, Turner, Union and Yankton counties will all experience a net loss in the number of licenses and tags distributed. Union and Yankton counties will have a decrease of 200 tags, while Lincoln and Clay counties will have 150 fewer tags. Union (200), Lincoln (150), and Clay (150) will experience the largest drops in tags starting in 2023.

Overall, the changes result in a reduction of 860 firearm deer permits – a 38% reduction – and 985 tags, which equates to 650 fewer deer tags and 335 fewer antlerless tags in those counties.

John Kanta, chief of GFP’s land division, said the decision was based on harvest data and observation reports from GFP, landowners and hunters that suggest deer numbers are low in southeastern South Dakota following deaths from the severe winter of 2022 -2023 and hemorrhagic disease. in 2023.

“This is a response to low deer numbers and we believe this is a response to a severe winter, not this year but two winters ago,” he said.

Due to the population and disease issues, Kanta said the decision was made based on the typical two-year cycle that the GFP tries to use when implementing changes to the deer season. Overall, the changes represent a 4% decrease in resident tags and 3% resident permits for the East River portion of the state.


A graph from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks shows suspected cases (black) and confirmed cases (red) of epizootic hemorrhagic disease as of 2023 in southeastern South Dakota.

Graphic South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks

Kanta said a full review of hunting tags and license figures takes place every two years and that 2024 falls in the middle of that two-year cycle, meaning there is still a full review of tags in those seven provinces and all 66 provinces in the region will take place. the state before the fall of 2025.

“We’re taking this out of the cycle,” Kanta said. “We made some changes last year and we’ll be back next year with a full set of information and some possible changes across all deer seasons.

The changes were approved by the GFP committee earlier this month during its regular meeting at Custer State Park.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, and bluetongue virus are diseases caused by two similar viruses that affect white-tailed deer, with EHD being more common in deer. These viruses are transmitted by the biting mosquito. Because the insects can be killed by frost, the impact of the disease can be seasonal, with deer often affected in summer or fall.

There is no effective treatment for either disease in deer. Due to the fast-acting nature of these diseases, surveillance of wild deer is not practical, and confirmation of these diseases typically comes through testing of deer found dead in the wild.

According to the GFP, in 2023 there were 123 cases of suspected EHD in the seven-province area and 12 confirmed cases, with no more than two confirmed cases in any province. Hutchinson had 38 suspected cases of EHD in 2023, 32 of which were in Union County. Confirmed cases in 2023 were found in eight other counties in southeastern South Dakota, including Beadle, Davison, Jerauld, Minnehaha, Moody, Miner, Sanborn and Tripp counties.

GFP Commissioner Bruce Cull of Yankton said he thinks it’s a good plan for 2024, especially considering he lives in the area.

“That’s the area I’m in and we’ve had a lot of contact with that,” Cull said. “We’ve had a lot of discussions and I think they’ve handled it in the best way that I can see. It is something I will support.”

Additionally, archery and muzzleloader hunters in Clay, Lincoln and Union counties would no longer be allowed to harvest antlerless deer using their antlerless white-tailed deer permit. However, according to GFP, they would still be allowed to harvest a deer using their archery or muzzleloader regardless of the type of deer license.

Marcus Traxler

Marcus Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. A former winner of the state’s Outstanding Young Journalist Award and the 2023 South Dakota Sportswriter of the Year, he has worked at the newspaper since 2014 and covers a wide range of topics. Traxler, a Minnesota native, can be reached at [email protected].