DEADWOOD, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Houndsmen Association wants nonresidents to be able to use dogs to pursue raccoons.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission turned down the houndsmen’s petition Thursday seeking removal of the state ban, but left open the path for a possible change.

Patrick Weimer of Spearfish, the association’s vice president, said the petition was an attempt to hold competitive events in South Dakota.

The petition would have allowed one raccoon to be harvested per day by each licensed hunter.

Weimer said the goal in an event is for the tracking dog to score points, not for the hunter to kill a raccoon. He said dog handlers wouldn’t be allowed to carry a firearm. “We would rather see the game and release it,” he said.

John Kanta, a state Wildlife Division official, told the commission that generally the division supported opening the rule to allow nonresidents to use dogs. But he added that the one-raccoon limit was an unnecessary regulation and noted that nonresidents can trap an unlimited number of raccoons from December 1 through March fifteenth.

Kanta acknowledged the people whose comments opposed the petition. “It’s really purely a social issue,” he said. Kanta recommended rejection of the petition but suggested the commission should develop a proposal of its own so that nonresidents could use dogs to hunt raccoons.

Commissioner Travis Bies of Fairburn said he favored letting nonresidents use dogs for raccoons. “But I think we need to get rid of that one-animal limit,” Bies said.

Commissioner Jim White of Huron said trespass can become a problem, especially in the dark when coon hunters like to head to the sloughs and woods and corn fields. Kanta said the petition didn’t address trespass.

“We encourage and require hunters in all cases get landowner permission before they set foot on private property,” Kanta said, adding the assurance that trespass laws would be enforced.

Where Kanta and some of the commissioners diverged was on how many months the dogs should be allowed. Kanta favored only the period of December-to-mid-March. Bies said that wouldn’t accomplish what the houndsmen wanted for holding events.

Kanta said the commission would have to adjust dates or set a dog-specific season if a longer period was wanted. But he also said the division’s conservation officers who enforce the regulations need to have clarity.

Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kevin Robling, who oversees the Wildlife Division, backed Kanta’s position. “It is the department’s stance that we would like to keep regulations simplified,” Robling said.

Commissioner Chuck Spring of Union Center said the one-raccoon part of the petition would put conservation officers in a difficult position if there were residents and nonresidents on a hunt. He wondered about limiting any change to private property. “It seems like anything that goes on public (land) there’s a lot more pushback,” he said.

Weimer said allowing nonresidents to pursue raccoons would be great. He said coon pelts aren’t bringing a price that would encourage poaching. “We just want the ability to have nonresidents in South Dakota participate in things we are already doing (elsewhere),” Weimer said.

Commission chair Stephanie Rissler of Vermillion said there seemed to be interest from at least some of the panel’s members in allowing nonresidents to use dogs to chase raccoons. “I think there’s an appetite there to make this happen. I think there’s some heartburn there with the one raccoon,” she said.

That was reflected in the comments that followed. Said Bies: “I don’t know why it couldn’t be year-round myself.”

Commissioner Robert Whitmyre of Webster said he supports dropping the ban — “It just doesn’t seem fitting in today’s world where we are today,” he said — while commissioner Julie Bartling of Gregory said she couldn’t support the petition but she was “deeply In favor” of finding a way to allow the competitions.