By Bob Mercer
Hunting seasons for elk received approval from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission during its April meeting in Rapid City. The finalized rifle and archery seasons are for 2018 and 2019.
The archery season runs Sept. 1 through Sept. 30. The commission approved offering 142 any-elk licenses and 80 antlerless elk.
In 2017 the commission had about 5,000 applicants for 147 any-elk and 130 antlerless licenses.
The Black Hills rifle season runs Oct. 1 through Oct. 31 for the seven any-elk units. There are 425 any-elk licenses.
In 2017, about 11,500 hunters applied for the 443 any-elk licenses available for the Black Hills rifle season.
Nineteen Black Hills antlerless units for rifle hunters open later.
Nine of those run Oct. 15 through Oct. 31 and four reopen Dec. 1 through Dec. 16. Five others run Dec. 1 through Dec. 16. The final five run Dec. 17 through Dec. 31.
There are 700 antlerless licenses for the Black Hills rifle season’s 19 units. There were 1,150 antlerless licenses last year.
Radio tracking indicated cow elk were down about 9 percent this year in the Black Hills, according to Chad Switzer, wildlife program administrator for the state Wildlife Division.
Custer State Park has nine any-elk licenses again for 2018 and 2019. The nine any-elk licenses available for 2017 brought 8,828 applications.
The Custer State Park any-elk season runs Oct. 1 through Oct. 31. The later start is intended to avoid overlap with archery hunters. The 2017 season began the third Saturday of October and ran 16 days.
The six Custer State Park antlerless units have a total of 60 licenses. The seasons are for short periods. Two are in October. Two are in December. Two are in January.
For prairie elk, there will be eight areas open to hunting in 2018 and 2019. There are 68 any-elk licenses, up from 58 in 2017, and 73 antlerless elk, down from 90 last year. A new unit in Harding County has eight of the 68 any-elk licenses.
— By Bob Mercer