Elk Hunting & History
Considered to be both a plains and mountain dweller, North American Elk (Cervus elaphus) were originally distributed throughout all of temperate North America, excluding the Great Basin and the southeastern United States. Although restocking efforts have replenished populations in most suitable habitats, the prairie and deciduous hardwood regions of the original range are unoccupied, except for small, introduced, isolated populations.
Elk were released in an enclosed pasture on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in the North Central Great Plains. The National Park Service, Theodore Roosevelt and Wind Cave National Parks, donated the elk to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) in efforts to reduce Park populations. The CRST Game, Fish, and Parks Program (GFP) requested Tribal Council place a 5-year moratorium on the herd to allow the herd to increase and to allow GFP to set up proper management procedures and goals.
GFP recently updated its elk herd management objectives to include hands-off management strategies, tribal member and open elk hunt opportunities, educational nature tours, meat production, and selling shed antlers.
In May 1993 the Theodore Roosevelt National Park provided CRST with 52 elk, 19 of which were males and 33 females. In December 1994, the Wind Cave National Park provided CRST with 42 elk, 33 of which were males and 9 females. The elk are presently kept in an enclosed pasture of approximately 2840 acres, located about 2 miles southeast of Eagle Butte, South Dakota, on the former Tribal Beef Camp. The herd has been managed by GFP since the date of release.
The GFP department originally considered numerous options for managing the elk population, to include velvet production, hunting, limited subsidy options, and cow/calf production. Initially, GFP opted to sell live animals, with profits to be used for managing the elk herd and to partially fund wildlife and habitat management on the Reservation. In order to accomplish this objective, GFP disease tested the herd annually for Brucellosis and Tuberculosis. In addition, GFP agreed to enter the Chronic Wasting Disease Control Program of South Dakota. To date, the herd remains disease free.
GFP has also provided other services related to the elk reserve. Tours have been given to several Tribal Head Start groups and tourist groups, and several controlled hunts have been conducted. Approximately 5-10 elk have been processed and donated to tribal elderly nutrition centers and elderly members.