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Consider Using Preference Points for a Leftover Tag

Gary Leppart

New program to offer added flexibility for elk hunters.

In states where there is a limited population of highly sought after species, hunters often wait years, even decades to draw a coveted tag. Once-in-a-lifetime, restricted eligibility, and other low quantity tag hunts are big draws for many states, though many folks will go their whole life, applying year after year, only to never get drawn for the tag of their dreams.

South Dakota recently announced plans for the 2016 hunting season to offer would be hunters some added flexibility in this area. The state has a limited number of elk tags available for their Prairie Elk, Archery Elk, and coveted Black Hills Elk hunting seasons. The Black Hills on the Western part of the state is known to hold some of the largest bulls in the U.S. The state has a restricted availability program set up, whereby successful applicants for an elk hunting tag will remain ineligible to reapply for that same tag for nine years.

That is, if a hunter successfully draws a Prairie Elk tag, he or she is able to continue applying for other elk tags in future years, but is unable to participate in the draw for the Prairie Elk seasons for the nine years immediately following their successful application.

Changes proposed by the Game, Fish and Parks department for 2016 would allow individuals a second option for using their preference points to draw a leftover anterless tag in the second drawing. Applicants in the second drawing are not required to use their preference points, however, those that choose to do so will receive priority in the drawing for the leftover tags over those who choose not to use their preference points.

Chief of Administrative Services for the GFP Divisions of Wildlife, Scott Simpson, believes this to be a way hunters that wish to avoid years of applications with no success can grow the likelihood of being able to hunt elk in the state. “If anterless licenses remain after the first drawing, applicants could increase their odds of going elk hunting by being able to use their preference points when applying for those licenses,” says Simpson.

In a state where it can take years to build up an inventory of preference points, one would ask, “Why lose all of those points over an antlerless tag?” It’s a good question, but one that each individual applicant will have to answer for themselves.

When you’re options are to continue applying along with the thousands of others vying for a small number of tags, or increase your odds of having an opportunity at a South Dakota elk, the offer can be quite tempting. This is especially true for those who are looking to stock the freezer or are nearing the end of their mountain trekking days and do not wish to wait any longer to hunt big elk.

There will be no changes to the application process for the first elk drawing. Paper applicants must be postmarked by May 20 and online applicants have until the 25th. The second drawing will be held completely online with no paper applications accepted. Online applications must be submitted by June 22, regardless whether an applicant chooses to use their preference points.

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Consider Using Preference Points for a Leftover Tag