Kyle Lenzner: Early bird gets the hunting license
Hunting season may be wrapping up or have already ended in some cases, but now is the time to start planning for next year’s hunt. In a lot of states, late winter into spring is when applications are due for the upcoming hunting seasons.
Here in South Dakota, spring turkey is our earliest big game application, which opens Jan. 31, 2023. Hopefully, you have been purchasing preference points, as many of our big game seasons require preference points to increase the odds of drawing the preferred license.
If you are curious where your preference points stand, you can log into your online profile and see your points for a particular season. Once you know your point totals, you will need to do a little research into the units those points are good for and see the odds of drawing those units. On our website, we have a tool that will show you how many preference points it took previous individuals to draw for the season you are interested in applying for. One thing to keep in mind on some units that do not require as many points to draw are the public accesses within the unit. Some of the units may have a high number of animals and licenses available but have limited public land access.
All this information can be found on the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks website. We have our public hunting access maps on our website along with animal density maps for you to use when determining what areas to hunt. We also have harvest data and survey data on our website to assist when picking a unit. The harvest data can show you what the hunter success was for an area, what was harvested, and how many days were hunted for a specific unit. Application time frames can be found on our website and a hard copy of the dates is available at district and regional offices.
The reason for doing all this research now is to figure out what licenses you are going to want for the upcoming and following seasons. There are only so many days during the season to hunt, and, if successful in drawing a license, you are going to want to make the most out of it. You do not want to be worrying about making time for a bunch of licenses, just focusing on the most important ones. Those other licenses can always be your priority the next year.
Just be aware that even with a high number of points, drawing is not guaranteed. Luckily, our applications are not all due at the same time. So, if you are unsuccessful for turkey season, you still have the elk, deer and antelope seasons. Also, if you decide you are not going to put in for the license this year but would like to in the future, you need to make sure to apply for the preference point this year when it is available.
There is a lot of information and options out there when it comes to seasons and units. And just like South Dakota, many other states have similar information available for sportsmen to use. Visit us on the web and explore all the options and information available to you. Who knows, maybe you will find that hidden honey hole of a unit that many do not know about yet.
Kyle Lenzner is a Conservation Officer with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.