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September Snow

A white-tailed deer stands in deep snow on a September morning near Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. 

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks officials have once again tweaked an overhaul of the state's deer hunting license system.

During a GF&P Commission meeting on Friday in Pierre, officials unveiled their latest proposal that would allow hunters to receive a maximum of two deer tags for the first draw covering six deer seasons. Currently, hunters can apply and theoretically draw tags for all six seasons on the first draw. 

The new proposal creates a combined pool drawing for the Black Hills, East River, West River, Custer State Park, Refugee and Muzzleloader deer seasons. Hunters may submit an application in no more than two seasons on the first and second draw of licenses. In the third draw, licenses are no longer pooled and hunters can apply and theoretically draw licenses for any of the six seasons in which they don't already have a tag from the first or second draw. 

The changes are aimed at giving hunters a higher probability of drawing a tag for their first choice. 

Proposals earlier this year were more restrictive than what was proposed on Friday. 

This saga started months ago. The commission approved its initial proposal in October, which would have restricted applicants in the state’s first and second drawings for deer licenses to submit one application for their preferred season of the state’s most popular: East River, West River, Black Hills or Muzzleloader. 

But the new licensing proposal drew sharp criticism from the public, which submitted hundreds of comments to the commission during its public comment period and circulated two petitions against the measure. 

A state rules committee would not ratify the changes, and it was sent back to the commission for more tweaks. 

At the December meeting, GF&P officials unveiled approved amendments aimed at attracting more young hunters and making licenses far more exclusive to non-resident hunters. Those amendments stay under this latest proposal.

A public hearing is scheduled on Feb. 28 and March 1 at the GF&P Commission meeting in Pierre. 

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