The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks doesn’t keep records of trophy deer, but senior big-game biologist Ted Benzon doesn’t hesitate to name Gregory County as a big-buck haven. Located on the west bank of the Missouri River along the Nebraska border, Gregory County has rich farmland and rugged river breaks that make prime prairie whitetail habitat. Landowners limit hunter access, so the county’s deer herd has a healthy population of older bucks. Last year hunter-success rates were 63 percent east of the Missouri River and 59 percent to the west. Statewide, there are an estimated 159,000 whitetails. Mule deer, confined to the western half of the state, are estimated at 92,000. A similar hunt is expected this year. More deer tags will be available as deer managers attempt to control the herd and reduce farm depredation complaints. In the Black Hills, a wildfire that burned 83,000 acres in 2000 is expected to rejuvenate deer habitat.