CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been a while since South Dakota hunters killed enough mountain lions to force an early end to the Black Hills season.
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission made some changes Thursday that might nudge the harvest a little higher for the 2019-2020 season that starts December 26.
Commissioners added a month to the Black Hills season, so it would close next spring on April 30, rather than March 31.
And, they adjusted upward the licenses specially allotted for Custer State Park hunts, including some with dogs, to 75, from the current 57.
But just as significant, they decided against allowing nonresidents to buy lion licenses.
The state Wildlife Division had proposed choosing 250 winners through a lottery-style drawing from nonresident applicants.
A resident hunter meanwhile can still buy a lion license straight up without going through a drawing.
Commissioner Scott Phillips of rural New Underwood liked what he called “the come home” opportunity for former South Dakotans to join family or friends again.
Commissioner Doug Sharp of Watertown said South Dakota discourages nonresidents who want to hunt deer or waterfowl.
While other pieces of the lion regulations fell into place on voice votes where no one was opposed, the nonresident issue went to a roll call and failed.
Phillips and Travis Bies of Fairburn voted for it.
Voting against were Sharp, Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton, Jon Locken of Bath, Robert Whitmyre of Webster and chairman Gary Jensen of Rapid City.
The defeat took off the table a proposed $280 license fee for nonresidents.
Commissioners also turned down an expansion of public lands where hunters could use dogs to force lions up trees or other spots where they hope to escape.
The practice currently is allowed on parcels the state Office of School and Public Lands and the federal Bureau of Land Management own outside the Black Hills.
The Wildlife Division wanted to add U.S. Forest Service lands. The vote was 5-2 against doing that.
This time Phillips led the effort to stand pat. “I think it’s worked just fine as it is,” he said.
Bies didn’t agree. He said dogs already tree bobcats on U.S. Forest Service lands in South Dakota: “What’s the difference for a little bigger cat?”
Sharp asked about the frequency of hunters having to call back their dogs. John Kanta, the wildlife supervisor for the Black Hills area, said the times were “not a lot.”
“It’s very few,” Kanta acknowledged. And, he added, he has hunters with dogs he can call if someone has a problem lion.
The next stop is the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee on November 4 for possibly final approval.