Here we are six days from July 4th and all I can think about at this moment is deer hunting.

Applications opened earlier this month for all deer seasons in South Dakota. While I'm trying to write this story all I find myself doing is looking at draw statistics and trying to figure out where I should apply. A couple of buddies and I are plotting already ahead of the July 14 deadline for West River and Black Hills applications.

What is the secret to getting the hunt you want? Owning land, luck and/or waiting, depending on what you want. Rack up preference points for as many years as you can. But in some units you can have 3 preference points and not be guaranteed that Any Deer tag.

If you live in the southeastern part of the state and don't want to hunt anywhere but where you live you will have to be willing to take a year off. I was super bummed out three years ago when I was denied a Union County tag after getting them the first two years I had applied. I love hunting my uncle's land but that denial opened the door to look west and I ended up applying for the second draw in Sully County and got an Any Two Antlerless tag. Unfortunately I only saw lazy bucks or running does. But I am so glad I went and now really look forward to going to the more remote areas of the state to hunt.

What is the secret to getting a tag and being able to hunt? You have to be flexible and, mostly, willing to go west to hunt. There are much more deer and tags out there. There are many counties that can guarantee you'll get a tag. Some can even guarantee a buck tag of some sort, either Any Deer or Any Whitetail.

If you want to hunt the Black Hills you need a preference point to get an Any Whitetail tag, but you might not get one. A buddy and I were in the lucky 1,961 out of 2,900 applicants who scored an any whitetail tag. You can be pretty well assured of an Antlerless tag if you apply in the unit closest to Rapid City. The western hills are a little riskier, but a more fun place to hunt in my opinion. That is where I got my doe last year on the last day we had after not getting a shot at buck all week.

If you want to hunt mule deer in the Black Hills you need at least two preference points, properly aligned planets, no broken mirrors in the last 7 years, fairy dust, and a four leaf clover in you pocket. There are only 200 Any Deer tags issued for the Black Hills and the 100 landowner tags sell out on the first draw leaving 100 for non-landowners.

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