By Sarah Pridgeon
Heavy snowfall at the beginning of October and depressed deer numbers from last year’s outbreak of disease led to a fairly quiet hunting season this year, says Game Warden Chris Teter.
“It was a relatively quiet season. We had a pretty conservative deer season, shorter than normal years and with fewer non-resident licenses,” he elaborates.
White-tailed deer across the Black Hills succumbed to epizootic hemorrhagic disease last year, an illness spread by biting gnats that usually affects bucks and fawns but eventually hit all age classes and both genders. Drought conditions led to deer populations concentrating near the available water sources, where gnat populations were high.
“It definitely had an effect,” says Teter. “Our deer numbers overall are still fairly depressed and that was the reason for the conservative season.”
October’s megastorm proved an impediment for elk hunters, meanwhile.
“The storm certainly made access difficult, particularly for the elk hunters in October, but the snow actually came off a little bit better than I thought it would,” says Teter.
“Access probably wasn’t as good as it is in a normal year, but the public land wasn’t completely inaccessible.”
Fortunately, the inclement weather did not significantly reduce the animal populations.
“I suspect that we probably lost some turkeys, but overall I think the elk and deer fared reasonably well,” says Teter.
Overall, he adds, the hunting was relatively good, though perhaps not quite as good as in years past.
“As far as deer hunting went, we have a good number of young deer in the population so there weren’t a lot of real large buck deer taken, but I think hunters were reasonably happy with their success,” he says.
“The snow really made access difficult for elk hunting, so I think that our overall elk harvest will be down from a normal year.”
Little occurred during hunting season to draw the attention of the Sheriff’s Office, says Undersheriff Tom Adams. A couple of minor trespassing issues were reported and routine stops were made for vehicles parked inappropriately, but no major incidents took place.
Nor did any non-local hunters became lost during their excursions. One or two calls were made to report hunters not returning when expected at the end of the day, he explains, but each turned up safely within a couple of hours.
Two calls did come in from hunters who found themselves stuck, on the other hand. Neither were lost, says Adams, but both were unable to get back out of the woods without assistance.