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South Dakota may implement a cubed preference point system


Bugling bull elk on hillside
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Just recently the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) released a proposal that would cube preference points for all limited draw seasons.

This proposed is intended to provide those hunters with a higher number of preference points a greater chance of drawing limited draw license.

So how will this work?

Currently, the proposed action would take the number of preference points a hunter has and add one to the current year application. That total will then be cubed and would determine the number of times each applicant's name is entered into the drawing. Basically, a hunter who has paid their dues... would have better odds. This has an impact on the older generation of hunters who have put their time in the drawings, because a lot of them may never pull a tag until they are physically unable to enjoy the hunt, but at a cost to the new hunters trying to draw tags.

For example, an applicant who has three preference points going into the 2018 East River deer season drawing would have a total of four upon submitting their application for 2018. Then that would be cubed to total 64; which means that applicant’s name would be entered 64 times for the 2018 East River deer season drawing. Under the current structure, this example would result in a total of four chances in the drawing.

A more drastic example would be if an applicant has 20 preference points for the 2018 Black Hills elk season drawing. Adding one more point upon submitting an application for 2018 would bring the total to 21. Then this would be cubed to 9,261; which means that applicant’s name would be entered 9,261 times for this drawing.

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What will not change

This proposal would not change the drawing to a true top-down preference point system. A hunter with the most preference points would still not be guaranteed a license before another hunter with fewer preference points, but the odds of drawing a license would be increased. So, everyone regardless of how many points they have will still have a chance to draw a tag.

Submitting comments on the proposal

To comment on this proposal, send written comments to:

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
523 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501

Comments can also be sent via email to

Note: To be included in the public record and to be considered by the Commission, comments must include a full name and city of residence and meet the submission deadline of 72 hours before the public hearing (not including the day of the public hearing) per HB 1006. The GFP Commission will discuss this proposal Jan. 11-12, 2018, at the Red Rossa Convention Center in Pierre. For those unable to attend the meeting in person, the discussion will be live streamed here.

Closing thoughts

This potential new system has an impact on high point holders, but this also means that people just getting into the points game will be at a disadvantage. Along with that, any of the more coveted species permits like elk, will get even closer to a once-in-a-lifetime tag because it will be so hard to catch back up with the cubed points system. This change came about from residents who were frustrated because they were high point holders and still not drawing tags but saw new people just entering the system and were pulling tags very early on. Preference points are $5 for residents and $10 for nonresidents. Exceptions are elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat, which are $10 and can only be purchased by residents.


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Caleb H. - posted 1 year ago on 01-03-2018 06:21:52 am

South Dakota residents will regret pushing that type of a system. Not saying the system they have now is great, but cubing the points? It will be all well and good for the first 2-3 years for the max holders, but they'll be crying when they start back at the bottom. No system is perfect, but some are better than others for sure. I apply in all the western states and have researched them all in detail. The draw odds, even for residents, will reduce drastically overall if South Dakota does this. Better to go to a system like Wyoming.

David S. - posted 1 year ago on 01-02-2018 05:45:04 am
trent south dakota

Love it, Hope it goes through!

Bendrix B. - posted 1 year ago on 12-25-2017 01:32:18 pm
Rochester, MA

Horrible idea. It should be flat every year, no presence points. Just a lottery with a fresh start. These point systems punish those who want to get into hunting and reward people for just showing up.

SETH D. - posted 1 year ago on 12-23-2017 07:31:26 am
Sunny New Mexico

I think it is a horrible idea. I wish everyone would go back to the Idaho and New Mexico model of no guarantees.

I feel sorry for any kid getting into hunting today, tag availability will turn them off.

The biggest problem is that invest your time and money in points, hoping to get a tag and maybe you do, and maybe you don't. The majority of the tag programs in west are broken because of point creep.

At least Arizona combated that this year by locking max point out to only a few 10-15% (I don't remember what the number was) for preference.

Squaring and cubing points, means that no one has chance to play this game if they are just starting out. Imagine telling your 14 year old they have to hunt exotics in Texas or go to Canada for the first 18 years of their life so they can hunt elk as a non-resident in a average area. I have 3 kids, 6, 5, and 2. If all three become interested in hunting, I will start them buying points and applying for tags, but that is so they can have a chance as an adult. It is getting pretty rough.

Benton L. - posted 1 year ago on 12-22-2017 08:39:28 pm

I feel it is a great idea but have no say because I am not a resident of the state.

Sam K. - posted 1 year ago on 12-22-2017 05:44:34 pm
Lennox, South Dakota

This is such a horrible idea. I have expressed my concerns to the state. I don’t understand why they feel they have to appease to those who have applied for years and not drawn. It’s a lottery, not a guarantee.