By late afternoon, the state Game, Fish & Parks Department website listed two lions on the 2012-2013 season kill list. A 78-pound, 2-year-old female lion was shot in Lawrence County and a 111-pound, 2-year-old male lion was shot in Pennington County.
But there could have been others taken and not reported since hunters have 24 hours to present a lion taken during the season to GF&P officials.
Meanwhile, the hunt continues today in a season that will stretch through March, unless a quota of 100 lions or a sub quota of 70 female lions is reached prior to that.
Steve Bulle, a lion hunter from the community of Hayward south of Rapid City, has no doubt that plenty more cats will come in soon. Bulle expects the 100-lion limit, the highest kill quota set by the GF&P Commission since the season began in 2005, will be reached.
“Based on my recent observations running my trap line, I have no doubt that the quota of 100 will be reached prior to the end of the season,” Bulle said by email Wednesday. “I found a four-by-four whitetail buck yesterday that had been killed by a lion, and I have seen more sets of lion tracks prior to the season than I did last year.”
The 2012 lion season, which opened Jan. 1, commenced with multiple bangs, too. Hunters killed four lions on the first day and went on to reach and exceed the overall lion quota of 70 by the end of February, a month before the scheduled conclusion. The actual number killed ended up at 73 when hunters in the woods took additional cats before learning the quota had been reached.
More lion deaths have been reported since the 2012 season closed. They included a few taken by hunters outside the Black Hills Fire Protection District. The lion season outside the district is open year-round, although fewer cats are found there.
In addition, some cats considered threats or problems have been killed this year by GF&P officers and other officials. Other deaths included vehicle strikes and fights between lions. The overall lion mortality from all causes was 108 going into this season.
Bulle was unsuccessful in his lion hunt Wednesday, even though a new snow made for good tracking conditions.
“Snow conditions today were excellent, but I don’t think the lions will really start moving much until after the snow we are supposed to get tomorrow,” Bulle said Wednesday. “My prediction is that on Friday and Saturday the harvest rate will increase dramatically.”
The status of the lion quota can be checked online at: http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/big-game/mountain-lion-season-harvest-status.aspx