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South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks News

December 30, 2007
Press Releases

Still Time for Deer Donations in January

PIERRE, S.D.óHunters still have plenty of opportunities for making donations of antlerless deer to the Sportsmen Against Hunger program.

ìThere are a variety of deer seasons still open for the taking of antlerless deer,î said Sportsmen Against Hunger President Jeff Olson. ìThese antlerless only seasons offer hunters the opportunity to get back out in the field with friends, help out landowners by thinning the herd and donate a gift of deer meat to those less fortunate.î

West River, East River and National Wildlife Refuge deer seasons are open Jan. 1 through Jan. 9 for the taking of antlerless deer only. Hunters may also take antlerless deer only in the youth, archery and muzzleloader seasons that run through Jan. 31. Hunters taking part in depredation hunts may also donate antlerless deer to the program.

Unsold licenses are still available for all of the seasons with hunters allowed up to five licenses in each season. Licenses may be purchased through the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department Web site at Licenses are still specific to the season and unit for which they are issued.

New to the Sportsmen Against Hunger program this year is a $50 processing certificate available directly from participating game processors. ìIn many cases processors will accept the certificate as payment in full for processing the deer,î Olson said, ìand they take care of getting in touch with a food bank to get the meat. The donation process has really been streamlined this year.î

For a list of all SAH processors and their processing fees for both antlerless deer and bucks, call toll-free 1-800-456-2758, or go to these Web sites: or An earlier restriction that limited hunters to four processing certificates has been removed.

Hunters can make financial donations to Sportsmen Against Hunger by using the check-off box on South Dakotaís big game hunting license applications. Financial donations are not limited to hunters. Anyone who cares about helping the hungry can make financial donations by mailing them to Sportsmen Against Hunger, P.O. Box 1172, Pierre, SD 57501.

Hill Cityís Blair Waite 2007 Wildlife Officer of the Year

PIERRE, S.D.óBuilding on his experience as a state trapper has led Blair Waite to the top of his field as a conservation officer for the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department.

Waite was recently honored with the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award, sponsored by the Shikar-Safari Club International, at a ceremony in Chamberlain. A conservation officer since 2001, Waite serves in western Pennington and southern Lawrence counties.

Waite served as a GFP extension trapper for 18 years before being promoted to conservation officer, a move that, according to GFP Regional Supervisor Mike Kintigh of Rapid City, has paid great dividends for the department. ìBlair has continued to provide exemplary service to the public in his more expanded role as a conservation officer,î Kintigh said. ìThe mix of the two wildlife professions has combined to mold Officer Waite into a first-rate conservation officer.î

One of Waiteís first accomplishments as a conservation officer was to provide training to other regional officers regarding trapping regulations and techniques. The comprehensive training introduced officers to the secret techniques used by some trappers and included field exercises in which Waite placed trap setsósome legal, some illegalófor officers to find.

ìThe training was so well-received, the other GFP regions requested that Officer Waite provide their staff with similar instruction,î according to GFP Conservation Officer Supervisor Jim McCormick of Rapid City. ìOfficer Waite has also been asked to provide the training to members of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department during their regional meeting in January.î

Innovation has also been a hallmark of Waiteís approach to law enforcement as he has embraced the use of new technology including night vision, surveillance cameras, metal detectors and decoys. ìOfficer Waite turns over more rocks than anyone during an investigation,î McCormick said. ìTime after time he has beaten the odds to solve cases involving significant violations.î

In recent years the department has placed a greater emphasis on landowner relations, something Waite knew was important from his years as a trapper helping landowners deal with wildlife damage complaints. ìOfficer Waite has worked diligently to make regular contacts with the landowners in his district,î McCormick said.

Earning the recognition from the Shikar-Safari Club International is not the first time that Waite has been honored for his work in the outdoors. He recently competed in the National Wild Turkey Federationís Wildlife Officer of the Year competition, earning an honorable mention at the organizationís national convention in Nashville, Tenn. In 2002 Waite was selected for the South Dakota Boating Officer of the Year Award.

GFP conservation officers who have received the award in recent years include Jeff Grendler (2006), Mike Apland (2005), Dave Bartling (2004), Bruce Nachtigall (2003), D.J. Schroeder (2002), Jeff McEntee (2001) and Scott Mikkelson (2000).

Founded in 1952 as a way to advance the knowledge about wildlife worldwide, Shikar Safari Club International works to enhance and preserve wildlife, placing particular emphasis on endangered and threatened species through the promotion of enforcement of conservation laws and regulations.

Stay Safe on the Ice

PIERRE, S.D.óSouth Dakotaís lakes and rivers continue to provide  a venue for outdoor activities even after they have frozen over in the winter. South Dakotans get out on the ice for fishing, hunting, trapping, skating, snowmobiling, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing.

ìFor many outdoor enthusiasts, getting out on the ice is a winter tradition,î according to Curt Robertson, hunting and boating safety coordinator for the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department. ìUnfortunately another winter tradition is accidents on the ice when folks donít pay heed to safety precautions.î

Looks can be deceiving in the winter. A lake or stream may appear to be safety frozen over but it must still be approached with caution to avoid a deadly set of circumstances.

For those who go out on the ice, here are some safety tips:

?          Four inches of clear, solid ice is usually safe for ice fishing.

?          Five inches of the same kind of ice is usually safe for snowmobiling.

?          Eight to 12 inches is usually safe for vehicles to be on ice, but driving should be avoided whenever possible. Traveling in a vehicle on ice, especially early or late in the season, can be dangerous.

?          New ice is usually stronger than old ice. As ice ages, the bond between the crystals makes it more dangerous and weaker even if melting has not occurred.

?          Wind speeds influence ice formation. Light winds speed up the formation. Strong winds force water from beneath the ice and can decay the edges of the ice.

?          Snow can insulate ice and keep it strong. It can also insulate it to keep it from freezing. When ice is covered by snow, greater precautions need to be taken to determine ice thickness before starting any activity. Snow can also hide cracked or weak ice and open water areas.

?          Slush is a danger sign. Slush indicates that ice is no longer freezing from the bottom. Slush also indicates weak or deteriorated ice.

?          Ice can change with the surrounding climate conditions. Temperature, precipitation, wind speed, ice age and water depth and water quality are all factors that affect ice strength and thickness.

?          If possible, one person should never check ice or attempt to rescue an ice victim because of the possibility of quickly going from rescuer to victim.

?          Individuals should wear a flotation device and carry ice picks when on questionable ice. They should carry ice picks whenever on ice, as they may never know when they may need them to pull themselves out. Everyone should have a set. Two short lengths of broom handle or dowel with sharpened nails in one end and joined with a piece of string can be easily carried in a pocket.

?          Before going onto ice, check with a local bait shop, resort owner or local angler to check on areas of thin ice or open water.

?          If you must drive a vehicle, be prepared to leave it in a hurry. Unbuckle your seat belt and have a simple plan of action in case your vehicle breaks through. Some safety experts recommend the doors be left ajar and windows down for ease of exit.

ìThe key to staying safe on the ice is paying attention to your footing,î Robertson said. ìCheck the ice before going out on it and remain aware of the fact that its thickness and reliability may change from location to location.î

In addition to safety, folks who drive out on the ice have an additional factor to consider: auto insurance. ìBefore you take your car or truck out on the ice, ask yourself if your insurance policy covers a loss through the ice,î Robertson said. ìWill the policy pay for the salvage through the ice? Do you have $2,000 or $3,000 handy to pay for the cost of removing your vehicle from the icy lake? Is your banker going to forgive your auto loan if your vehicle is at the bottom of the river? These are all good questions that should be asked and answered before anyone drives out on the ice.î

Snowshoe Hike on the Mickelson Trail

PIERRE, S.D. - After sitting too much and eating lots of food over the holidays, think how fun it would be to get outdoors and enjoy nature.  To provide an exciting opportunity, a snowshoe hike has been scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 5, beginning at 1 p.m. on the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills for both novice and experienced snowshoe users. Interested participants need to call the Black Hills Trails Office at 605-584-3896 to reserve a pair of snowshoes and to find out where to meet. The location of the hike will be determined by snow conditions.

Participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather. Snow pants with elastic around the cuffs work well as the snowshoes tend to flip snow onto the back of hikers' legs. Regular snow boots will fit in the snowshoe bindings.

The program is free but a daily or an annual Mickelson Trail pass is required and will be available for purchase at the event.

This Walk in the Park is one of a series of walks sponsored in collaboration with the South Dakota Department of Health.

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