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Custer State Park, South Dakota: An Awesome Experience 
 
by Mary M. Alward August 17, 2005

The Fall Roundup and Roundup Arts Festival

The Fall Roundup is part of the park’s resource management program.  The animals are sold on the third Sunday in November to ensure control of the buffalo population within the park.  The monies from the auction go into the park’s operating budget. 

Along with the Fall Roundup comes the Annual Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival.  This is a three-day event that is held from September 30 to October 2.  All activities take place just off US Highway 16A, near the State Game Lodge.  Here, local crafters and artisans display their work.  The event begins with a pancake and sausage breakfast that will tickle your taste buds. 

The Custer County Chamber of Commerce takes the opportunity during the Arts Festival to have their annual Chili cook-off.  This is a unique event, as all chili entries must share on common ingredient – buffalo meat.  Chefs from around the region stew up their favorite chili recipe and visitors are able to taste each entry if they like.  Most chefs charge 10 cents a sample. 

Buffalo Hunts

Custer State Park also has two buffalo hunts per year.  The Traditional Bison Hunt is a vehicle based hung that lasts three days.  Hunters must report to park headquarters each day to meet their assigned guide.  A fee of $3,000 covers a guide, transportation to and from the field as well as the handling of the animal.  Hunters should expect to travel at least 100-off-road miles per day in search of the ten-year-old bulls. 

For a once in a lifetime experience, take in the Horseback Trophy Bison Bull Hunt.  Hunters stay in a fully equipped camp in the scenic back country of the Park.  Accommodations include two cots, a heating stove, a heated dining tent, a drying rack and a bathroom tent.  Three meals are provided each day, as is a quarter horse for transportation.  A Custer Park guide and wrangler is assigned to each hunter for the five-day hunt.  The fee for this unique experience is $10,000.  This includes the use of the horse, a bison permit, camp accommodation as well as the field handling and transport of the buffalo bull.

Custer State Park issues ten license permits for the hunts each year.  They are available only on a first come basis until September 5 of each year.  The horseback trophy hunt is available to only two hunters.  The remaining eight licenses are for the traditional hunt.

The week of buffalo hunting offers other opportunities also.  You are able to see and photograph majestic elk herds and magnificent bighorn sheep in their natural habitat.  Trout fishing is available in French Creek Canyon.  All of these activities are done in traditional western style.  It is an opportunity to take part in a memorable hunting experience.

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