Fire danger is often a concern for hunters taking the field in the autumn, but conditions this spring in South Dakota have officials warning turkey hunters to help prevent forest and range fires.

“We are experiencing very dry conditions across most of South Dakota,” said Emmett Keyser, assistant director of the Wildlife Division in the Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “This is especially true in the Black Hills. Hunters and other outdoor recreation users can be of great assistance in our efforts to prevent fires, and just as importantly, provide extra eyes to watch for any fire activity.”

Fire danger is extremely high in the Black Hills and fires have already occurred. It is illegal to have open fires or campfires in the Black Hills away from designated areas without a permit.

Keyser said hunters can help prevent wildfires by adding the following preparations to their hunting plans:

  • Carry a cell phone with a list of emergency contact numbers, and keep track of where good cell coverage is available
  • Keep in close contact with private landowners to know what concerns and restrictions are in place when hunting their land
  • Park vehicles in designated parking areas and away from tall vegetation
  • Ensure that catalytic converters and mufflers are in good repair
  • Walk in to hunting areas and walk out, including retrieval of game whenever possible
  • Restrict driving to established roads and trails
  • Camp only in designated camping areas and restrict use of campfires
  • Bring extra water, a bucket, a shovel, and other firefighting equipment
  • Hunt in the early morning when high humidity holds down fire danger
  • Restrict smoking to vehicles and extinguish cigarettes in the vehicle’s ashtray

“The key to fire safety is awareness,” Keyser said. “Hunters just need to use common sense and be aware of the potential for wildfires no matter what the conditions are. A responsible person’s actions can make a huge difference in protecting both property and wildlife resources.”

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