SD Mule Deer Plan

gzap16

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Aug 12, 2021
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Hi Everyone,

First time post here. I have an archery mule deer hunt planned for SD during the second week of Oct. The areas I had scouted a lot online are some of the few areas being hit hard by drought. Curious if anyone can speak on how that might impact deer behavior during that time? I have read the deer management plan, but didn't find much about the impact of drought.

Also, I have been looking more into some of the national grassland areas but I was curious if anyone has any insight about how the deer density and their habitat use can be a little different in the grasslands compared to some of the bluff country and timber in the far western portion of the state. Appreciate any help I can get!
 
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gzap16

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Aug 12, 2021
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Thanks for the reply! I have not hunted SD archery before, this will be the first time.
 

KurtR

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South Dakota
Ehd is hitting hard finding lots of dead deer. The whole state is dry. The hardest part is everything is dry and crunchy so hard to stalk. Glassing and finding a pinch point where they are traveling to food or water would be something to try. Also you might be hunting during rifle antelope.
 
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gzap16

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I will definitely be out there during antelope. Thanks for the info about EHD and stalking. Our group had been wondering about that as well.
 

sodaksooner

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Yeah, last time I bowhunted mulies on the SD prairie it was dry as hell and damn near impossible to stalk. I think it's worse this year from what I saw. I was west river last week and it was crunchy for sure. Hopefully they get some rain in the next few weeks. Ambush going to food or water would probably be the best tactic. if you can find a pinch point. Saw a lot of deer hitting the alfalfa in the road ditches as I drove through (I was there visiting family and mountain biking)
 

NickD40

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Sep 14, 2021
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When you guys say the state is dry, does that stem from a bad summer, bad winter, or both?
 
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gzap16

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Yeah, last time I bowhunted mulies on the SD prairie it was dry as hell and damn near impossible to stalk. I think it's worse this year from what I saw. I was west river last week and it was crunchy for sure. Hopefully they get some rain in the next few weeks. Ambush going to food or water would probably be the best tactic. if you can find a pinch point. Saw a lot of deer hitting the alfalfa in the road ditches as I drove through (I was there visiting family and mountain biking)
Thanks for the help, I appreciate it!
 

KurtR

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When you guys say the state is dry, does that stem from a bad summer, bad winter, or both?
Dry fall last year dry spring dry summer dry fall just an all around drought . Blue tongue and ehd are taking its toll on the deer in lots of area of the state right now. Even blue green algae has been tough as water sources are shit.
 

buckpro

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Oct 20, 2017
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SC
We have hunted with the same rancher for 15+ years, all i know is he called my father the other day and said if you want to skip a year, this is the year. They were finding dead deer everywhere. He's almost 70 and said he hadn't seen it that dry since he was 10. When its dry the blue tongue hammers them.
 

180splitg3

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I hunted west river archery mule deer last year with a buddy. Very tough hunt - we struggled to find bucks. On the last day we finally started getting into some does. We went the first week of October and ran into a lot of hunters (non-res can't hunt public ground until October 1st). If I was going to go back I would probably go in November in hopes of the deer being more active. I blame our struggles partly on the timing of our hunt and mostly on our inexperience. Keep your expectations in check and you should have a fun hunt out there - sucks that it's so dry and that the deer are struggling...
 
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gzap16

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I hunted west river archery mule deer last year with a buddy. Very tough hunt - we struggled to find bucks. On the last day we finally started getting into some does. We went the first week of October and ran into a lot of hunters (non-res can't hunt public ground until October 1st). If I was going to go back I would probably go in November in hopes of the deer being more active. I blame our struggles partly on the timing of our hunt and mostly on our inexperience. Keep your expectations in check and you should have a fun hunt out there - sucks that it's so dry and that the deer are struggling...
Thanks for the information! I definitely have tempered expectations and I'll be happy if I get my eyes on some bucks. Was there anything in particular that helped you start finding deer toward the end?
 
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gzap16

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We have hunted with the same rancher for 15+ years, all i know is he called my father the other day and said if you want to skip a year, this is the year. They were finding dead deer everywhere. He's almost 70 and said he hadn't seen it that dry since he was 10. When its dry the blue tongue hammers them.
Dang! That seems like a grim report. At this point I am pretty committed, but I think that helps me have realistic expectations going into it.
 

Fatcamp

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Sodak
Hunt. See some new country, find some sheds, maybe see some rattlesnakes. Lot better than sitting on the couch talking about how deer numbers are down.

You managed to apply for a tag early enough to hunt public, might as well follow through. I'm not done archery hunting, just have to find the time between all my other tags.
 

CB4

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Oct 10, 2018
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Iowa
I will be heading out there in Oct as well. Either the same week or the last week of Oct. Luckily I can be flexible with dates. Best of luck!
 

180splitg3

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Jan 25, 2020
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Thanks for the information! I definitely have tempered expectations and I'll be happy if I get my eyes on some bucks. Was there anything in particular that helped you start finding deer toward the end?
Well, I would say it just took a while to learn the area. We had never put boots on the ground until the first day we arrived to hunt. We stayed in a hotel that was close to the area we planned on hunting. After walking around for a few days and putting on a lot of miles we found a better piece of ground - the problem was that it was over an hour away from the hotel. We hunted that piece for the last two days and started seeing deer. A lot of the deer we saw seemed extremely spooky compared to the deer we are used to hunting in MN farm country (its public land so not surprising). There were times we would spot deer from the truck - as soon as we would stop to look they would sprint away. This happened several times even when the deer were 4-500 yards away. I'm guessing they are used to being road hunted and know that a vehicle means danger...
 
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gzap16

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we had a similar experience as far as deer being wary of vehicles. We really had to get back into some areas away from access roads and harder to reach vantage points to start finding deer consistently, although, we did have one area not far off a road that the deer just really wanted to be in no matter what. That area was tough to glass well and it took us until the last day to figure out their little hidey hole in that area.
 
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