Although the fall air has fallen on South Dakota, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks commissioners will be hearing a proposal about spring during its meeting today at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls.
One of the items on the agenda for finalization is the spring turkey hunting seasons in the Black Hills, prairie and Custer State Park units, as well as the archery season.
The proposal calls for the spring season to not be a rifle hunting season, and would extend the turkey hunting season from its current dates of April 7 to May 20 to April 7 to the end of May.
GF&P regional terrestrial resources supervisor Trenton Haffley said the proposal deals with the questions of rifles not being used in the spring based on surveys where people expressed concern over some new hunting practices like using turkey decoys and holding turkey hunting stands over a hunter's face.
"There’s concern if someone isn’t paying close attention with a turkey stand with a rifle, someone could get shot," Haffley said.
The other part of the proposal aims to extend the spring hunting season to the end of May, instead of having it end on the eighth day before Memorial Day weekend, as it does currently.
Haffley said this is mostly to increase the opportunity for hunters during a season when only male turkeys can be hunted, thus not having a huge biological impact on the population.
He said it also wouldn't hurt to clear up any confusion about what date the season ends.
"As hens start nesting, gobblers are still callable and doing their thing in the springtime, so there’s an opportunity there for guys to get out, with the weather still being nice, to hunt turkeys," he said. "Aside from that, it does kind of clean it up a bit, but the primary reason is the additional opportunity we want to provide."
Haffley said overall GF&P would like to see more turkeys in most western South Dakota units, including the Black Hills. He said the Black Hills does technically fall in the 'maintain' population category, but barely. He said most turkey hunters will say there have been fewer in the Hills in the last few years.
Still, he said there are areas of the Black Hills that see some damage of too many turkeys. He pointed out rural subdivisions of homes in particular, as areas where residents might find it novel to have a bird feeder and attract one of two birds, and it isn't long before they have 200 in their front yard.
Haffley said this is why it's important not to feed turkeys if someone lives in an area like that. Once the turkeys have found a food source, they don't leave quietly.
"It’s really difficult for us to do anything at that point. We can trap some of them, but once that population gets habituated to feeding or eating there, even once the food is removed, it’s tough to get the turkeys to leave," he said.
The spring season, however, isn't about maintaining, increasing or decreasing populations, Haffley said. It's all about increasing hunter opportunity and having a little fun along the way.
"That’s the season (fall) that we use in areas where we have enough or too many turkeys, that’s the season we use to control populations or regulate populations," he said "The spring season is the fun season. The males are strutting and easy to call. It’s fun to be out in the woods in the nice weather."
The meeting begins with a call-to-order at noon mountain time in Sioux Falls today.