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Custer State Park to host snowshoe hikes

 Custer State Park will be offering winter snowshoe hikes again this year in the months of January, February and March.

The Game Lodge Snowshoe Hike will be held Saturday and will guide participants through a pine forest overlooking Game Lodge Campground, near Grace Coolidge Creek. The two-mile hike is considered easy and will take nearly two hours to complete.

The hike will depart at 10 a.m. from the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center. If there is enough snow, snowshoes are provided; however, reservations are required to checkout snowshoes by calling 605-255-4515. If the amount of snow does not allow for snowshoeing, a guided hike will still be held.

There is no cost for participation in the hikes or snowshoe checkout. However, a park entrance license is required.

Participants should dress appropriately for the weather, as temperatures in the Black Hills can be unpredictable. Any footwear can be used with snowshoes; however, waterproof hiking boots are recommended.

Custer State Park will host two other snowshoe hikes this winter. The Lover’s Leap Snowshoe Hike will be held twice on Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. and Noon. The Sylvan Lake Snowshoe Hike will be held March 10 at 10 a.m. Reservations for these hikes can also be made by calling 605-255-4515.

There is a snowshoe checkout opportunity until April 1. Those interested in checking out a pair of snowshoes and hiking in various areas of the park can stop by the Custer State Park Visitor Center. There is no charge to check out snowshoes. The hours of the visitor center are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Snowshoes are not checked out the day of scheduled guided hikes.

Mike Smith to speak at Outdoor Campus on Monday

South Dakota Walleyes Unlimited is hosting Mike Smith from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Monday at the Outdoor Campus in Rapid City as he speaks on the state of the Lake Oahe fishery.

The talk will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Lake Oahe is the largest and one of the most popular fishing destinations in South Dakota and is home to many of the state's most sought after sportfish. Although impacts of the 2011 Missouri River flood continue to be observed in Lake Oahe, recent research and surveys have shown an increase in prey fish numbers and improved walleye condition.

GFP staff will be on site to give an informational presentation and answer questions regarding Lake Oahe.

GFP going paperless for three hunting and fishing applications

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) recently announced that they will not distribute printed applications for paddlefish, spring turkey and special buck seasons in 2018.

Due to the decreased demand for paper applications, GFP will not print the standard run of paper applications for the seasons associated with paddlefish, spring turkey or special buck. In 2016, 24,041 applications were received for these seasons. Of that total, 1,514 (6 percent) were submitted using paper applications. A small number of applications will be printed to distribute to regional wildlife offices for walk-in customers who may still need to submit the paper version.

“We send a large quantity of applications to our licensing agents across the state, and they’re just not getting used,” said Shon Eide, GFP licensing program administrator, in a release. “Individuals who wish to still submit a paper application can do so by downloading the PDF off the website, print and mail it to the Fort Pierre licensing office. With this change, we continue to encourage individuals to apply for these (and other) seasons online at gfp.sd.gov.”

At this time, these are the only three applications that will not be printed. GFP will monitor customer input and feedback to help chart the course for future paper applications.

Game, Fish and Parks unveils new website

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) is inviting visitors to explore its new website at https://gfp.sd.gov/.

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“The new website has been designed to provide the ultimate user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality throughout; connecting hunters, anglers, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts with their next outdoor experience and ensuring they have the most accurate digital content to do so,” said Calley Worth, GFP digital content strategist in a release. “The website was created with the user experience firmly in mind using the latest technology compatible with today's browsers and mobile devices.”

Extensive research through customer surveys, online feedback, one-on-one focus group conversations as well as trends and analytics provided information on how to structurally design and format content.

Key features include:

Enhanced events calendar with state park events, season dates, application openings, fishing tournaments, open house meetings and more;

A complete list of forms and permits with more than half of the previous paper versions being replaced by online versions;

A central location for all maps;

Specific visitor feedback from each park; and

Frequently asked questions.

In addition, a new mobile app will also launch later this month that features a digital backpack so users can customize it with favorite maps, licenses and handbooks. The app will provide the ability to view maps offline if the user is in an area with little to no cell phone service. Residents and nonresidents will be able to sign up for notifications regarding hunting season start and end dates and application opening and closing dates. Users need to know that this new mobile app is designed for Android systems 6 and up and iOS systems 10 and up and that they may need to update their software if the app does not download to this new version.

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