In 1999 we surveyed 1,000 randomly selected South Dakota, USA, muzzleloader deer (Odocoileus spp.) hunters using a self-administered mail survey to gain better understanding of equipment used, skills, success, motivations, and attitudes about technology and restrictions. This sample represented 67% of the state's muzzleloader deer-hunter population in 1999. Nine hundred and four usable surveys were returned. We conducted a K-means cluster analysis to determine if muzzleloader hunters could be separated (based on equipment used) into modern and traditional hunters. Modern muzzleloader hunters (31%) used in-line muzzleloaders, bullet with sabot, Pyrodex pellets, or fiber-optic open sights, while traditional muzzleloader hunters (69%) used caplock muzzleloaders, black powder, or flintlock muzzleloaders. We compared hunter type, age, experience, skills, success, and equipment used by category to determine if differences existed. Most muzzleloader deer hunters (68%) were satisfied with current equipment regulations. Probability of hunter success increased when modern muzzleloader equipment was used and the distance hunters were willing to shoot at a standing deer increased. Equipment type only slightly impacted harvest success. Because more muzzleloader hunters were satisfied with equipment restrictions, we concluded that establishing additional limits was not necessary. Moreover, South Dakota wildlife managers already had a lottery quota system for permit allocation that could be used to adjust for increased muzzleloader harvest. Thus, we contend muzzleloader-equipment–regulation decisions for South Dakota hunters may be more a social than a biological issue.
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