House ag committee takes on hunting laws

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2020 4:24 pm

Thursday morning the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee handled four bills, all of which in some way dealt with hunting and the outdoors.

Bill seeking to verify GFP commissioner qualifications tabled

Legislators are in Pierre to enact laws, but sometimes they get what they want without adding to the state’s legal codes.

Rep. Herman Otten, R-Lennox said he had been working for two years to find a way to verify the qualifications of people who serve on the Game, Fish and Parks Commission. Current law says that at least four of the members should be farmers who derive at least two-thirds of their gross annual income from crop or livestock production or both.

Otten sponsored HB1111 which would have required commission appointees to supply a financial statement to the GFP legal counsel to verify their income.

Otten asked that his bill be tabled as GFP has started requiring commission members to sign an affidavit that verifies their farm income.

“It’s a good change,” Otten said, noting that it was used earlier in the week when the Senate approved the appointment of Charles Spring, Union Center, to the GFP Commission.

Kevin Robling, assistant secretary of GFP, said all members of the commission have had their farm incomes verified. If the income circumstances change for the commissioner during the term of service, the commissioner would not be eligible for reappointment, Robling said.

Since the bill was tabled, no action was taken.

Out-of-state mentors welcome

Mentored hunts for young hunters will allow out-of-state mentors if HB1095 becomes law.

Current law allows children who have not gone through the HuntSafe program to go on a mentored hunt. The hunt includes the child, an adult and one firearm. Currently mentors must be South Dakota citizens.

The bill was inspired by a request from Charles Strandburg of Atwater, Minnesota, who has grandchildren in South Dakota. Strandburg said he wanted to mentor his grandchildren, but couldn’t because he was from out of state.

“Those children like to hunt and fish, thank God,” Strandburg said.

Game, Fish and Parks Department Wildlife Division Director Tom Kirschenmann said the department approves of the legislation. Kirschenmann explained that in Strandburg’s case, under the changes proposed in HB1095, he would need to acquire an out-of-state nonresident small game license if he wanted to mentor a pheasant hunt for a grandchild.

In the case of a mentoring a big-game hunt, the child’s parents would seek a mentor deer tag and give the tag, plus written permission to Strandburg to take the child on a mentored hunt.

The committee approved the bill on a 12-0 vote. It now goes to the full House.

$500 fine sought for intentional trespass

Intentionally trespassing on private property would lead to an automatic $500 fine if HB1257 becomes law.

Rep. Caleb Finck, R-Tripp, sponsored the bill, in part because he has seen repeat offenders trespassing while they hunt on his land.

“Sometimes it is the same folks,” Finck said.

Current law treats intentional trespassing as a Class 2 misdemeanor, with a fine similar to a speeding ticket. Offenders also must relinquish their hunting license for one year.

The Game, Fish and Parks Department backs the legislation, according to assistant secretary Kevin Robling.

“This is all about recreation and respect,” Robling said.

Robling noted that there are many atlases available from GFP as well as phone apps that offer the digital equivalent of a plat book.

“It’s very hard not to know where you’re at,” Robling said.

The bill was approved by the committee on a 12-0 vote and now goes to the House floor.

Counties could offer coyote bounties

HB1181 would allow counties to offer a bounty of up to $50 for coyotes.

“There are a few counties that would like to have this option,” said Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland. Current law allows counties, by resolution, to offer a $4 bounty on coyotes.

Steve Nelson, representing a dozen landowners in Hughes, Stanley and Sully counties, said all those landowners were in favor of the bill.

“Predator control does work, but it’s expensive,” Nelson said.

The committee approved the bill on a 12-0 vote and it now goes to the full House.