Bill allowing more youth to hunt, fish for free approved by Senate with little debate

Rebekah Tuchscherer

A bill that will allow more youth to fish, hunt and trap for free in South Dakota is headed for Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk after it passed in the South Dakota Senate Wednesday afternoon. Thirty-four senators voted in favor with one excused.

According to Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, House Bill 1034 simplifies and brings uniformity to youth hunting regulations, as the legislation makes it so all people under the age of 18 are considered “youth” for purposes of hunting, fishing and trapping in South Dakota. By current statute, definitions of “youth” vary greatly based on the license required.

The bill “provides for folks that have moved out of the state, so they’re able to come back,” Cammack, the lone senator to speak on the bill, said.

According to a fiscal note requested by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee earlier this session, the state would lose approximately $100,000 from in-state youth licenses and about $200,000 from non-resident youth licenses.

Adding additional hunting opportunities and seasons for young people throughout the years has created licensure complexities that can be difficult to understand for both adults and children alike, according to Tom Kirschenmann, the director of wildlife for South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP).

“We [GFP] see and we hear stories where individuals don’t even participate because they just can’t figure out how it works,” Kirschenmann said of hunting licenses at the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee meeting on Jan. 21.

The bill will subsequently eliminate two licenses including the junior combination license for fishing, which is required for people ages 16-18, as well as the non-resident family fishing license.

Additionally, the bill will allow for children who are not residents of South Dakota to participate in the hunter mentoring program, which allows for those under the age of 16 to hunt without a license as long as they’re accompanied by an adult mentor who has completed a hunter safety course and possesses a valid hunting license.

Bryon Hatlestad magnet fishes on Thursday, May 14, 2020 at Palisades State Park in Garretson, S.D.