East River deer rifle season opens this weekend; hunters and motorists need to stay sharp

Troy Schwans | Editor

In the 1900’s hunting seasons established by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks Commission allowed deer populations to recover from historic lows. Deer hunting seasons have occurred regularly since the 1950s, with deer hunters harvesting approximately 95,000 deer during the record year of 2010.

White-tailed deer and mule deer are the most highly sought after big game species in South Dakota and throughout North America. Hunting remains the number one tool for managing deer populations across South Dakota and harvest strategies are intended to ensure the well-being of the species and its habitat while maintaining populations at levels compatible with human activity and land use.

While there are many deer seasons in South Dakota, one of the more popular ones has been open for awhile now. South Dakota archery season has been open since September 1 and remains open until January 1. Also, apprenticed and mentored firearms deer season in South Dakota has been open since September 11 and also remains open until January 1.

Black Hills firearms deer, another popular season, is open the month of November, and last weekend West River firearms deer season opened. Now this coming weekend, East River firearms deer season opens, which includes this area of South Dakota. The regular part of that season runs from November 20 through December 5. Some deer tags have additional dates available, but not all, so if you’re in possession of any deer tag it’s certainly wise to know your open seasons.

It’s also important to read the South Dakota Hunting and Trapping Handbook 2021 to know the rules on wearing fluorescent orange, shooting hours, trespass laws, etc. Having a fun time with family or friends can change drastically when one forgets the rules and safety procedures of hunting.

Transporting big game also has regulations that need to be followed. GFP Law Enforcement Section Chief, Sam Schelhaas, provides some reminders for big game hunters.

-The big game license is the white strip on the top and the big game tag is the red/ blue/ green/ yellow/ pink portion on the bottom, which is affixed to the animal;

-Hunters transporting big game must have the tagged leg/antler with the meat, along with the head or attached sex organs, unless the head is dropped off at a CWD check station and has the corresponding tag;

-Hunters who have tags for any deer/elk/antelope do not need to take that animals head or attached sex organs for transport. Antlerless tag holders must make sure they have either the head or the attached sex organs;

-It is illegal to transport any part of a big game animal from the field without the animal properly tagged or without a transportation permit;

-If a person other than the licensee transports big game animal parts (including boned out meat) the tagged leg or a transportation permit must accompany the items transported; and

Some common transportation violations Conservation Officers encounter are transporting the head/antlers without a tag, transporting boned out meat without a tag and not having the head or appropriate sex organs for transportation.

“Most of the violations we come across are from good hunters. They just have forgotten or misunderstand the rules,” said Schelhaas. “Sometimes they make a mistake after a long day of hunting or because of the excitement of a great hunt. It’s understandable, but it’s important to always know the big game regulations.”

And finally, hunters must understand that with Covid-19 again this season, there may be parts of your hunt that are different from the past years. The businesses you frequent during the season may have special requests to help insure safety, or the locker plants that you have your game processed at may be experiencing unusual situations again this year, and the normal way won’t be the case. Cafés and sporting goods stores may also have special requirements when visiting them. Please act with care and respect so we may all continue to stay safe.

Motorists need to be aware of deer too this time of year. Locally, deer are in rut and move frequently, many times in unusual patterns from normal. This makes the deer more likely to be crossing roads, not only in darkness, but often in dusk and dawn hours, and even in daylight hours. 

In the unfortunate case where you hit a deer with a motor vehicle, move your vehicle to the side of the road, away from the animal. Call the police and let them know if the animal is blocking the road. Stay away from the deer or animal as it may be frightened and could harm you.

Also, South Dakota law states that if any deer or antelope is killed by a motor vehicle on a public highway, any person who desires to possess that animal shall notify a conservation officer, as defined by § 41-15-10, prior to taking possession of the animal. The conservation officer may give a dated and written authorization allowing possession of the animal. The conservation officer may give verbal authorization to take immediate possession of the animal prior to receipt of the written authorization. The written authorization allows the possession and disposal of the animal. The written authorization shall remain with the carcass while in processing or storage. No part of an animal so obtained may be sold, bartered or traded. There is no fee for the issuance of such authorization.

So, as another South Dakota tradition begins locally this weekend, please keep your mind on your hunting safety or on the road as you travel, and do your best to keep yourself and others safe at all times and enjoy yet another changing of the great South Dakota seasons!

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