2017 Hunting Forecast 
Standing Rock Game and Fish
Mike Gutzmer & Chris Shank

White-tail Deer

White-tail deer numbers are up from last year by approximately 11% according to the annual aerial surveys. Aerial surveys consisted of helicopter flights in the southwest portion of the Reservation. Good quality bucks were observed along with healthy doe sizes. Last year’s winter took a toll on many wildlife species, but the deer did not get hit as hard. There are very few confirmed cases in EHD in all of South Dakota. The state’s program on radio collaring deer this past year have shown good survival rates in adult, fawn and juvenile populations. It is believed that the whitetail populations are increasing faster than mule deer populations. A total of 1855 deer tags were sold last year (2016) with only 781 returned hunter harvest reports (42% returned). From the returned hunter harvest reports we know a total of 246 (31.50%) white-tail bucks, 236 (30.22%) mule deer bucks, 53 (6.79%) white tail does and 57 (7.30%) mule deer does were taken on Standing Rock, 192 (24.58%) did not answer. Bucks averaged 4.01 antlers on the left side and 4.07 antlers on the right side.

Mule Deer

Mule deer numbers are slightly down from last year according to the annual aerial surveys. Although, ground count surveys conducted by the biologist shown to have increasing mule deer numbers from last year. Spotlight deer surveys account for both mule and whitetail deer, and proved to have increasing numbers from last year. Very good quality bucks were observed by biologists during surveys, also noted was healthy size of doe and fawn populations. From the 781 returned hunter harvest repots (only 42% returned) a total of 53 mule deer bucks and 57 mule deer does were taken on Standing Rock last year (2016). Mule deer can be found everywhere on the Reservation, however, most mule deer will be found in arid, open areas and rocky hillsides. Food of the mule deer is quite varied. In spring and summer they feeds on green leaves, herbs, weeds and grasses more than on browse species. The reverse is true in fall and winter. Good numbers of mule deer can be found in the southwest portion of the Reservation.


Antelope are down on the Reservation according to recent surveys. There were no antelope surveyed during the aerials, however recent ground counts have indicated antelope are present on the Reservation. The harsh winter has drove antelope off the Reservation to seek more available forage and suitable environments. Recent ground counts have shown good to excellent buck size; fawns have been documented with does on the Reservation. Recruitment looks promising on the Reservation, more information and surveys are needed to assess the population more fully. Antelope can be found across the entire Reservation, we typically survey antelope on the western half of the Reservation, in particular the southwestern portion. Pronghorn antelope can be found in grasslands, brushlands, bunch-grass and sagebrush areas of open plains and deserts. Pronghorns are herbivores and their diet consists of grass, vegetation, cacti, forbs, and shrubs


The bad winter of last year (2016) has left fewer numbers of pheasants in our surveys. Standard surveys include crow counts during the breeding season, brood surveys during chick hatching periods and ground counts/observations during all times of the year. Crow counts showed a slight decrease in numbers, however ground counts show stable numbers of pheasants across the Reservation. Pheasants can be found everywhere throughout the Reservation, however more birds will be seen near agriculture and tall, thick grasses and shrubs.

Grouse/HungarSharptailian Partridge

Grouse appear to be slightly down according to our ground counts however, the aerial surveys showed numbers to be stable. We are seeing a great increase in partridge numbers in conducting our surveys. The grouse restriction will remain the same from last year’s. Sharptail grouse prefer sub-climax brush-grasslands. The plains sharp-tailed grouse use rolling hills with scrub oak thickets and grassy glades. As an equivalent to sagebrush, they use scrub oaks, serviceberries and willows. These brushy sites provide critical winter shelter and food sources. Typically, the plains grouse occupies medium to tall grasslands for courtship and nesting

Partridge are up in numbers on the Reservation according to recent surveys. We have decided to increase the partridge daily limit to 3, and a possession limit of 12. Our surveys have shown populations are sustainable enough to allow this increase in take. Partridge can be found everywhere on the Reservation, we tend to survey partridge more on the eastern half of the Reservation. Partridge will be found mostly on “margin” areas where agricultural fields and native shrub-steppe habitats meet.

Wild Turkey

Turkey populations also appear to be stable and slightly increasing in numbers. Due to the fact we never sell out of permits and wish to control the excess turkey population, we have decided to increase the bag limit to four turkeys (any sex) per one permit. Permit cost will stay the same as last year. Turkeys are mostly found on the eastern half of the Reservation and along river bottoms including the Cannonball River and the Grand River. Turkeys are typically found foraging on forest floors but can also be found in grasslands and swamps