South Dakota Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

For deer management, South Dakota's broken up into three distinct regions: East River Management Area, West River Area, and Black Hills Area. Three very hard winters, from 2008 through 2010, have dropped deer populations, especially mule deer, across much of South Dakota. Fawn-to-doe ratios are down, too, for both mulies and whitetails.

On the plus side, this most recent winter was not much of a winter at all, giving deer a break. Winter precipitation was good, and deer forage was abundant.

East River: "Deer populations throughout the eastern half of the east river management unit are below population objectives," said Kevin Robling, big game biologist for South Dakota Game and Fish. "In the remaining management area, populations appear to be stable, and in some units increasing."

Overall, there will be a significant reduction in the number of antlerless tags here.

"Some parts of the area are experiencing dry conditions," Robling said. "But forage availability still appears to be very good. With the reduction of antlerless tags going into the 2012 seasons, we expect these populations to rebound quickly."

West River: Mule deer numbers down, whitetails stable.

"The far northwestern portion of the state did experience some above average winter loss in 2010-2011, and antlerless harvest has been reduced accordingly," Robling said. "Also, units along the Missouri River and some adjacent counties did experience an EHD outbreak last fall. Some isolated areas experienced moderate die-offs and the severity of the outbreak was highly dependent on geographical area."

Black Hills: Mule deer are at below normal numbers, though pockets of high-density whitetails do exist.

"Conservative antlerless harvest strategies will continue throughout the Hills region and we suspect populations are starting to rebound," said Robling. "Some parts of the area are experiencing very dry conditions, which maybe impacting forage availability. However, those who draw a tag for the Black Hills, should find plenty of opportunity to harvest a deer. In this area, mature whitetail bucks typically are harvested in mixed forest/pasture habitats."

The Midwestern Regional Report
_Winter in the Midwest was mild to nonexistent, and deer herds came into spring in very good shape. However, drought could be an issue in some states. "Hard and soft mast crops will likely be compromised, and clover and row crop production is threatened by dry conditions," says Iowa deer biologist Tom Litchfield. In parts of Indiana and Illinois, some farmers were forced to plow under failing corn or chop it up for cattle feed in midsummer.

Deer numbers are stable to growing in most locales, though disease is taking a toll in several states. North Dakota is still reeling from last year's EHD outbreak, CWD is spreading within Illinois and Wisconsin, bovine tuberculosis is still a concern in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and Nebraska and Missouri experienced EHD outbreaks this summer._

Top Trophy Zones
IL: Pike, Adams, Brown, and Fulton counties. KS: Units 11, 12, and 16.
KY: Christian, Grayson, Hardin, Hart, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties.
MI: Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties. MN: Zone 3. This fall will be the third year of antler-point restrictions here.
MO: Saline, Putnam, Calloway, Chariton, and Cooper counties.
NE: Since 2005, hunters have taken 44 record-book mule deer bucks in Cherry County, including a 171 2⁄8 typical in 2010 and a 210 4⁄8 non-typical in 2005.
OH: Muskingum County. WI: Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Waupaca counties. Between 2005 and 2010, the Dairy State led all other states with 383 Boone and Crockett entries.