According to harvest surveys compiled by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department, last year saw the all-time highest recorded deer harvest in the state and it was the eighth straight year that deer harvest has increased.
GFP Game Harvest Survey Coordinator Corey Huxoll said that estimates indicate approximately 70,000 white-tailed deer and 17,000 mule deer were harvested during the 2007 hunting seasons, for a total of more than 87,000 deer. That is a slight increase of about 300 deer from 2006 and a significant increase of more than 41,000 deer since 1999.
"We have harvest records back to 1929, a time when deer hunting was only allowed in the Black Hills, and never have hunters harvested as many deer as they did in 2007," Huxoll said. "Continued increases in the number of licenses available, the number an individual hunter could possess, season dates which include the harvest of antlerless deer only, and a decrease in the fees for antlerless licenses have combined to result in the increase over the last few years."
Overall harvest success has declined in recent years to 48 percent from 54 percent in 2005, but remains relatively high despite an increase of more than 20,000 in the number of tags issued. The number of deer tags issued has more than doubled from 88,000 in 1999 to 181,000 in 2007. Most of the harvest increase consisted of whitetail does, which has also more than doubled from 16,500 in 1999 to 36,600 in 2007.
"The decrease in harvest success in some areas is a good sign that the steps taken by the department to reduce the size of the deer population are having the desired effect," Huxoll said. "However, the department remains cautious regarding backing off on the pressure that has been applied to reduce and control the population in recent years. Some areas of the state will likely see reductions in tag numbers in 2008, but other areas will likely increase or remain steady."
Huxoll noted that the department owes its thanks to hunters for the important role they play in helping the department gather harvest information for all game species in the state. "It is only through the cooperation of hunters completing harvest report cards that we are able to assess the success of the harvest for each of the deer seasons," Huxoll said. "Some states have mandatory check stations and hunters may have to drive 20 to 30 miles or more only to wait in line to have someone visually document their harvest. Hunter surveys are an efficient, scientifically sound and cost effective method for assessing harvest mortality on wildlife populations that we as an agency are responsible for managing for maximum yet sustainable use by all citizens of South Dakota."
The 2007 Big Game Harvest Projections Report is complete and can be accessed through the GFP Web site at http://www.sdgfp.info in the "What's New" section, or it can be requested by mail or in person in printed form from the Pierre office at 523 E. Capitol Ave.